Australia

Luke Foley resigns as NSW opposition leader but denies ABC reporter's allegations

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NSW opposition leader Luke Foley has resigned, but denied allegations he drunkenly groped an ABC journalist.

Luke Foley has stepped down as opposition leader after an ABC journalist went public with allegations he behaved inappropriately towards her during a 2016 Christmas party.

At a brief press conference, Mr Foley denied the allegations, but said his position was untenable. 

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Luke Foley resigns as NSW opposition leader after ABC reporter's allegation
Luke Foley resigns as NSW opposition leader after ABC reporter's allegation

"The allegations against me today made public by the ABC are false. I've retained solicitors and senior counsel to advise on the immediate commencement of defamation proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia," he said.

"However, I can't fight to clear my name and fight an election at the same time. It's just not possible to do both."

Luke Foley made a brief statement on his political future.
Luke Foley made a brief statement on his political future.
AAP

He said he will be remaining as the member for Auburn, before leaving and refusing to take questions from reporters.

Earlier in the day, the ABC released the statement from Ashleigh Raper, alleging she was inappropriately touched by Mr Foley at a Christmas party in 2016.

"He put his hand through a gap in the back of my dress and inside my underpants. He rested his hand on my buttocks. I completely froze," Ms Raper said in the statement. 

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Bill Shorten comments on Luke Foley sexual assault allegation
Bill Shorten comments on Luke Foley sexual assault allegation

Ms Raper said Mr Foley, who succeeded John Robertson as NSW Labor leader in 2015, had called her earlier this month to say he was sorry and that he would stand down as leader.

“He told me that he had wanted to talk to me about that night on many occasions over the past two years because, while he was drunk and couldn’t remember all the details of the night, he knew he did something to offend me.

“He apologised again and told me, “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot”.

Journalist Ashleigh Raper.
Journalist Ashleigh Raper.
Twitter

She said Mr Foley told her he would step down either on Monday, November 5 or Wednesday, November 7.

However, he later “informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader”.

“He indicated he intended to follow that advice.”

The ABC said Ms Raper asked to be reassigned from State Parliament to general reporting shifts in February 2018 for reasons unrelated to the incident and before media enquiries were received.

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Luke Foley responds to sexual assault allegations (22nd October 2018)
Luke Foley responds to sexual assault allegations (22nd October 2018)

Rumours of the alleged incident have been circulating in NSW parliament since the night in question.

Mr Foley launched an extraordinary attack on the Liberal frontbench in parliament, claiming they were carrying out a smear campaign, after Liberal David Elliott raised the matter in parliament in October.

Michael Daley at NSW Parliament.
Michael Daley at NSW Parliament.
AAP

Previously, Mr Foley had called the claims “lies”, demanding his political opponents repeat the claims outside the protection of NSW Parliament.

Ms Raper said there were three things that had prompted her to make her statement.

"First, women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour. And I want it to stop," she said.

"Second, situations like mine should not be discussed in Parliament for the sake of political point scoring.

"Third, I want to get on with my life."

SBS News has contacted Mr Foley's office for comment.

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Scott Morrison on Luke Foley
Scott Morrison on Luke Foley

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the allegations against Mr Foley were "shocking and disturbing".

"They are matters for him and his colleagues in the Labor party to address, whether it's Bill Shorten or others," Mr Morrison told reporters in MacKay. 

"They are matters for them to reflect on. I'm not here to act as judge and jury on these sorts of things."

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten was asked about the allegation on Thursday but said it would be inappropriate to comment.

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Luke Foley insists he'll remain in his position during interview with breakfast radio
Luke Foley insists he'll remain in his position during interview with breakfast radio

Maroubra Labor MP Michael Daley is among the frontrunners for the top opposition job.

The ABC said it was "extremely unfortunate" that media and public pressure had caused Ms Raper to speak publicly on an issue she didn't want to pursue or comment on.

"There is absolutely no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Ms Raper and her career should not be affected in any way," the public broadcaster said in a statement. 

If you or someone you know is impacted by rape or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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