Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he has talked with the government minister accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988, and that the minister, whose identity has not been revealed, denies the historic allegations.
During a press confernce on Monday, Morrison rejected calls for the minister to stand down, saying: “We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicized through the media is grounds for … governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that.”
He also revealed he will not be launching an independent investigation into the rape allegations, and that he sees it as a job for the police. He did not acknowledge NSW police are unable to investigate the allegations against the cabinet minister because the woman died last year.
Asked by a journalist whether he had asked the cabinet minister in question if he denies the allegations, Morrison said: “Yes, I have and he absolutely does”.
The Prime Minister said this conversation occurred last Wednesday, the same day he also spoke to the head of the Australian Federal Police and the secretary of his department. After these conversations, Morrison said there are “no matters” regarding the rape allegations that require his attention.
“I had a discussion with the Commissioner last week, about these matters, and I also had a discussion with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Deputy Secretary, about these issues and I had a discussion with the individual, as I said, who absolutely rejects these allegations,” Morrison said.
“And so after having spoken to the commissioner and to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary at this stage, there are no matters that require attention.”
Morrison is facing mounting pressure to immediately stand down the government minister accused of rape, while legal experts and the Greens have called for an independent investigation into the allegations. Morrison has so far refused these suggestions, despite the minister in question being under no investigation currently.
Meanwhile, Morrison said he has not personally read the contents of the materials – including an anonymous letter and 31-page dossier – sent to him about the historic rape allegations, that he had only “been briefed on the contents of them”.
“I’m aware of the contents of them. I’ve been briefed on the contents of them. And it was appropriate, as the commissioner himself advised the parliament, to refer any allegations to the properly authorities,” he said.
“Now, these are very distressing issues that have been raised, as there are other issues that have been raised in relation to other members in other cases. But the proper place for that to be dealt is by the authorities, which are the police.”
Despite knowing about the allegations since last Wednesday, Morrison chose not to speak on the issue until Monday afternoon. Even then, he only fronted the media to talk about the release of the report into the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
If journalists there hadn’t asked him questions about the rape allegations, Morrison’s silence may have continued.
What’s now clear is that the leader of Australia chose not to read the materials sent to him about the rape allegations on Friday, and that if he had had his own way, he would still have not spoken publicly about it.
It could be argued that he’s also rejecting The Ministerial Code of Conduct, which states that a: “minister should stand aside if that minister becomes the subject of an official investigation of alleged illegal or improper conduct.”
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