Nationals MP Michael Johnsen has announced he is taking leave after revealing himself to be at the centre of allegations that he raped a woman in NSW.
It came after Labor’s Trish Doyle told NSW Parliament on Wednesday that an unnamed NSW government MP is being investigated by police for allegedly raping a sex worker in the Blue Mountains in 2019.
“It is all the worse that this man who raped her is a government member of this chamber… his power and privileged position as a civic leader make that fear, anger and hurt all the worse,” Ms Doyle told the lower house.
Hours later, Mr Johnsen outed himself as the accused NSW MP and said he is helping police with inquiries.
He denies the allegations.
In a statement issued to the ABC late on Wednesday night, Mr Johnsen said: “I am devastated by these allegations.”
“I have voluntarily spoken with NSW Police, and I have and will continue to fully cooperate with their enquiries.
“I am confident any investigation will conclude that I am an innocent party.”
He said he was taking leave immediately and stepping aside from his NSW state duties including his Parliamentary Secretary role.
“Without admission, I have chosen to step aside from my parliamentary secretary role and will not sit in the Nationals party room nor the joint party room,” Mr Johnsen said.
“I will be taking leave effective immediately for a short duration.
“As the matter is with the NSW Police I will make no further public comment.”
NSW Police said they were aware of the allegations raised by Ms Doyle and were investigating the matter.
“Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad are investigating allegations of sexual violence against a woman in the Blue Mountains in September 2019,” the force said in a statement.
“The matter was reported and referred to the squad in late September 2020 and has been under investigation since.”
Revelations of sexual assault and harassment within politics has been dominating the national conversation in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison under pressure to improve safety for women address systemic inequality.