Australia

Peter Dutton praises Christian Porter as ‘gutsy’ for publicly fronting historical rape claims

Human rights activists have pushed for a new online surveillance bill to be culled. Source: AAP

The Home Affairs Minister also criticised former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull after he cast doubt over whether the woman had taken her own life.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has described Attorney-General Christian Porter’s denial of a historical rape allegation as “gutsy”.

On Wednesday, Mr Porter gave a 45-minute press conference publicly denying a sexual assault allegation against him, said to have occurred in 1988 when he was 17 years old and the alleged victim was 16 years old.

"It just didn't happen," Mr Porter told reporters on Wednesday. “Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened."

Speaking to 2GB on Thursday, Mr Dutton said the press conference was “gutsy” and suggested the attacks against the Attorney-General were politically-motivated.

"I thought it was a gutsy performance by Christian yesterday. At the end, he's got allegations that no one would ever want against him that have been unfounded and cleared by the police, yet his name has been tarnished," he said.

“To watch him stand up there and go through that vilification, even with some of those journalists in the room who were just baying for blood, I thought his performance was quite remarkable and he held up the best he could."

Mr Dutton also criticised former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull after he cast doubt over whether the woman had taken her own life.

On Tuesday, Mr Turnbull told ABC radio “we don’t know for sure that she took her own life, we know for sure that she’s dead”.

Mr Dutton said the comments say “more about Mr Turnbull than it does about anybody else”.

“The really important point here is the tragedy of the family, and the parents issued a statement through their solicitor yesterday to say that they’re still deeply grieving the loss of their daughter,” he said.

“They never wanted any of this to be made public, they expressed that to the ABC at the time, and for some people to completely disregard that and to use this circumstance for their own axe to grind is unforgivable.”

The remarks come amid mounting pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to hold an independent inquiry into the historical rape accusation.

NSW Police on Tuesday closed their investigation into the rape allegation put to them in February last year by the woman at the centre of the complaint.

The South Australian coroner is also investigating the circumstances around her death and currently considering whether to conduct an inquest.

Mr Morrison said on Thursday further investigation could undermine the rule of law, given NSW Police closed its probe because of a lack of admissible evidence.

"You will be aware of the terrible things that can happen in a country where the rule of law is not upheld and is not supported," he told reporters.

"The rule of law is essential for liberal democracies and we weaken it at our great peril."

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Mr Porter has himself questioned the process of an inquiry going ahead, concerned it would force him to "disprove something" that he says "didn't happen".

He has taken a short period of leave for his mental health.

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

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyondblue.org.au. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

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