'Ugly and upsetting': Pressure mounts for inquiry into rape allegation

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to enact an independent inquiry into the allegation of historical rape levelled at the government's attorney general Christian Porter, which he denies.

On ABC's Insiders program on Sunday morning, journalists held back tears as they discussed the issue and said they hoped the country had reached a turning point when it comes to supporting victims of sexual assault.

ABC journalist and TV personality Annabel Crabb, who knew the woman around the time of the alleged incident but was previously unaware of the allegation, said a proper inquiry was needed after what she described as one of the most emotional weeks in politics during her career.

"The involvement of the police, to the extent that they were involved, is kind of a red herring," she said, referring to Mr Morrison's insistence that it is simply a matter for police.

“There is a procedural vacuum here … and it's ugly and it's upsetting, it's horrible.”

Journalists Katharine Murphy and Annabel Crabb struck a poignant tone on the Sunday morning program. Source: AAP
Journalists Katharine Murphy and Annabel Crabb struck a poignant tone on the Sunday morning program. Source: AAP

Ms Crabb said Mr Porter's own concerns about a trial by media were at odds with his opposition to a formal inquiry.

“I don't see how that [speculation] will stop unless something else fills that vacuum and that needs to be an authoritative voice,” she said.

Guardian Australia political journalist Katharine Murphy describing the government's stance as "cops or bust", while also noting the fact that such cases are notoriously difficult to prove in the judicial system.

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At the end of the program she held back tears as she spoke about women who had experienced sexual assault.

"I want to speak to survivors. I want to say sorry," she said.

Earlier in the show, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the country was at a turning point on the issue.

"I hope you heard that, and I hope you believe that," Ms Murphy said.

Ms Crabb was also taken aback during the final moments of the show when fellow journalist Peter Van Onselen said it was a "difficult issue" on an individual level when friends or loved ones were accused of such crimes.

"I don't know what to make of that ... I think this stuff is not easy for anyone. Oh my god, sorry, I just," she said before briefly trailing off.

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Inquiry calls grow louder

Mr Porter has been accused of raping a 16-year-old debating friend in Sydney in 1988, which he categorically denies. The South Australian woman passed away last year but it is alleged that she outlined the allegations in a dossier ultimately sent to a few members of parliament, including Scott Morrison.

Both Mr Morrison and Mr Porter say they have not read the dossier – something which Ms Crabb criticised as being "profoundly incurious".

The woman's death has meant investigations by NSW police never got off the ground and while the potential of a wide ranging coronial inquest into the woman's death still looms in South Australia, Mr Morrison has steadfastly refused to heed calls for an independent inquiry into the matter, referring to the idea as "mob justice".

Despite the government's repeated refusals this week, calls for an inquiry have simply grown louder.

Channel Ten political editor and Project host, Peter Van Onselen, who is a close friend of Mr Porter's, said he was bemused by the government's refusal to have an inquiry.

“I can't for the life of me understand why the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister or the Government writ large wouldn't want an independent inquiry,” he said on Insiders.

Australia's attorney general Christian Porter leaves a press conference Wednesday where he outed himself as the accused. Source: AAP
Australia's attorney general Christian Porter leaves a press conference Wednesday where he identified himself as the accused. Source: AAP

"Even just for the politics of it being a circuit-breaker, even if there are risks that, if you like, it seals the fate of the Attorney-General politically, because I don't see what the alternative is."

On Saturday, government backbencher Barnaby Joyce called for a confidential inquiry as an alternative to the trial by media – which will continue partly due to his government's inaction.

The former Nationals leader said many parliamentary colleagues, including some Liberal MPs, want his "head on a plate".

He also backed Mr Porter's decision to stay put as first law officer of the land.

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