A number of politicians had been made aware of historical rape allegations against a current federal minister more than a year before they were detailed in a letter sent to the prime minister, Labor senator Penny Wong, and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young last week.
On Friday evening the ABC’s Four Corners revealed that Scott Morrison and the two senators had received an anonymous letter on Wednesday alleging that a current cabinet minister had raped a woman in Sydney in 1988. It was later reported that Liberal MP Celia Hammond also received the letter on Wednesday.
The alleged incident occurred years before the man entered politics, the letter said, and the woman was 16 at the time. She took her own life in June 2020, which has prevented a criminal investigation into the politician.
The Australian Federal Police has stated that it received a complaint relating to an historic sexual assault, and would liaise with the relevant state authorities.
My statement on steps taken in response to an anonymous letter received by my office this week. pic.twitter.com/2BO88Ad4KW
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) February 27, 2021
On Saturday Labor senator Penny Wong revealed that she had known about the allegations for more than a year.
“I first became aware of the complainant’s allegation when I ran into her in Adelaide in November 2019. The complainant reminded me we had met once before,” Wong said in a statement.
“The complainant made an allegation that she had been raped many years earlier by a person who is now a senior member of the federal government. She indicated she intended to report the matter to NSW Police. I said that making a report to the appropriate authorities was the right thing to do. I facilitated her referral to rape support services and confirmed she was being supported in reporting the matter to NSW Police.”
The woman had also told former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor MP Daniel Mulino of the allegations, both in 2019.
The anonymous letter had called on Morrison to establish an independent parliamentary investigation into the allegations.
Over the weekend Greens leader Adam Bandt urged Morrison to conduct an independent inquiry into whether the accused minister is fit to be in cabinet.
“The circumstances of this case and the potential difficulties of prosecuting the matter mean the prime minister cannot wait for the police investigation alone,” he said in a statement.
“If the prime minister doesn’t at least stand this man aside while he conducts his own inquiry, then he’s sending the terrible message there is space in his cabinet for someone with an unresolved rape accusation.”
Hanson-Young and senator Jacqui Lambie have also called on Morrison to investigate the matter, while Labor leader Anthony Albanese has said the allegations must be investigated “appropriately” without being politicised. Legal experts have also called for an independent inquiry to be established.
On Sunday Liberal senator Sarah Henderson issued a statement announcing that she had been contacted by a woman who alleged she had been raped by a Labor MP. Henderson said she referred it to the AFP.
The allegations have emerged just two weeks after former ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a colleague at Parliament House in 2019. Since then, three other women have come forward to make allegations against the man.
The culture at Parliament House and the conduct of ministers faced increased public scrutiny late last year, when Four Corners aired allegations that Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and Attorney-General Christian Porter had consensual affairs with staffers.