Berejiklian: time for a change of culture

·2-min read

A day after being blindsided by a rape allegation made against a NSW government MP, Gladys Berejiklian says it's time to seize the opportunity for a culture change.

"It's beyond one party. It's beyond politics," the premier said on Thursday.

"I think there's a lot of work we need to do as a society."

Ms Berejiklian said she had no advance warning that police were investigating Nationals Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen over an alleged rape.

"I joined everybody else in being absolutely shocked at the serious allegations that were raised and somewhat relieved that it's subject to a police investigation," she said.

"The alleged victim needs to be able to have a process where nothing is prejudiced so I'm going to be really careful in what I say because all of us want to get to the bottom of this and want it to be done properly."

The revelation - made by a Labor MP under parliamentary privilege on Wednesday - comes after weeks of scandalous allegations in federal Liberal Party ranks, including the alleged rape of staffer Brittany Higgins and a historic rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Labor MP Trish Doyle told NSW Parliament an MP, whom she did not name, raped a sex worker in the Blue Mountains in 2019.

Nationals Leader John Barilaro says he did not hear her statement but was alerted to speculation the allegation might involve Nationals MP Michael Johnsen.

He said he then quickly phoned the Upper Hunter MP and asked him to stand aside from his job as parliamentary secretary and no longer attend the National Party room or the joint party room.

Mr Johnsen issued a statement saying he had, "without admission", stepped aside from his role and would not sit in the party rooms.

The situation effectively puts Mr Johnsen on the cross bench, leaving the one-seat majority Berejiklian government vulnerable as he takes a leave of absence from parliament.

Ms Berejiklian said the sexual assault allegations dominating federal politics lately were not just about the Liberal Party and the scrutiny provided "an opportunity to make real change".

"We need everybody to make change otherwise this will be another ripple," she said.

"People will forget about it and then nothing happens and I don't want to see that.

"And I hope that beyond the processes of justice that we do think about culture ... about unconscious bias and we think about respect."