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Australian top law officer denies rape allegation

CANBERRA, Australia: Attorney General Christian Porter has come forward to deny rape allegation against him as the accusation has caused a storm of speculation in the nation’s parliament.

Speaking at a press conference in Perth on Wednesday, Porter strongly denied the allegations made against him. “Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened. Even now, the only information I have about the allegations is what has been circulating online,” he said.

On Tuesday, New South Wales police announced that the investigation into the historic rape allegation was closed, saying that there was “insufficient admissible evidence to proceed.”

During the press conference, Porter responded to journalists’ questions on the details of the allegation by saying it “just didn’t happen.”

A letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week alleged Porter had raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988, when he himself was 17. The woman took her own life last year.

Porter said he wouldn’t be standing down as attorney general, but would be taking “a short period of leave.”

“If I stand down from my position … because of an allegation about something that simply did not happen, then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work, based on nothing more than an accusation,” he said.

The allegations came to light after statements by the alleged victim were anonymously sent to the Prime Minister’s office and two female politicians from the opposition Labor and Green parties in the past week.

Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson Young, who was sent a copy of the statement, said it accused the minister of raping the woman when she was 16 years old.

The alleged victim died at the age of 49 in June 2020. In a statement on Wednesday, the South Australian State Coroner said that he had determined the investigation into her death was “incomplete” and he had requested “further investigations.”

The rape allegation led to calls from the woman’s supporters and opposition politicians for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ask the minister to stand aside and for an independent investigation into the allegations.

On Monday, Morrison said he had spoken to Porter, then still unnamed, and that he had “vigorously denied the allegation.”

Morrison said he would refer the case to the New South Wales police.

“We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being published through the media is grounds for, you know, governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that,” Morrison said. “We have a rule of law in this country.”

The alleged victim’s lawyer Michael Bradley said that it was a “good thing” that Porter had identified himself but said that an independent inquiry was still necessary.

“If there is no inquiry, the trial by media which Porter warned we should all want to avoid is exactly the thing that will happen,” he said.

The historical allegations came less than two weeks after a former staffer in the ruling Liberal Party came forward to allege that she had been raped by a colleague in 2019 in Parliament House.

Brittany Higgins said she was attacked after a work event in March 2019, but decided against putting in a formal complaint amid concerns it could affect her career.

Speaking in February, Prime Minister Morrison apologised to Higgins, and promised an investigation into the alleged rape.