• The culture of Parliament House is under scrutiny after several sexual assault allegations. (AAP)Source: AAP
A wave of sexual assault allegations over the past several weeks has placed the culture of Australia's highest offices under intense scrutiny.
Sarah Collard

4 Mar 2021 - 4:42 PM  UPDATED 4 Mar 2021 - 4:42 PM

Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is urging the Attorney General Christian Porter to stand aside over "unanswered questions" stemming from accusations of the rape of a 16-year-old girl more than thirty years ago.

"The only way to get to the bottom of these questions and to clear his name is through an independent inquiry," the senator told NITV News.

Ms McCarthy is backing calls for an independent inquiry into the allegation, which dates back to 1988. 

"There has to be confidence, across Australia, in the government," Ms McCarthy said. 

After days of speculation, Mr Porter identified himself as the cabinet minister at the centre of the allegations, which came to light after an anonymous letter was sent to the Australian Federal Police, the Prime Minister's office and several female politicians. 

Attorney General categorically denies the allegations 

The Attorney-General categorically denies the allegations and said he will not be resigning or stepping aside over the allegations leveled at him.

"Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened," Mr Porter told reporters on Wednesday. 

NSW Police said in statement that after several months, on June 23 2020, the woman sent an email to officers saying she no longer wanted to proceed with the matter due to health and personal reasons - she took her on life the next day. 

Violence against women bigger than Parliament 

Senator McCarthy said the latest allegations point to a larger problem within Parliament, but also Australian society more broadly.

"There is a deeper disturbance into the culture around the Australian Parliament," she said.

Ms McCarthy said not only has she reached out to her parliamentary colleagues but she also had ordinary Australians inquiring after her welfare. 

"My staff but also those working beside my colleagues and Australians have actually come to us and check on us and how we are going," she told NITV News. 

"It's also a much broader issue across the country when we think about the importance of women's safety, both at home and in the workplace." 

The government has been under scrutiny for weeks following revelations of the alleged rape of former political staffer Brittany Higgins inside Parliament House in 2019. 

PM rules out inquiry into claims 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today dismissed suggestions that an independent inquiry was a suitable way forward. 

"I don't agree with that because I don't agree with the precedent or the prima facie case for there being such a process," the PM said.

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

The culture of Australia's highest offices is under intense scrutiny after waves of sexual assault allegations over the past several weeks.

Ms McCarthy said she hopes an increased focus on violence against women and women's safety leads to change.

"There is a great depth of soul-searching going on in our country, in particular in the Parliament of Australia," she said.

Greens Senator and Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe backed Labor's call for an independent inquiry into the Attorney General. 

“The Prime Minister’s response isn’t good enough. There is a cloud over his government. He should call an independent inquiry and do it fast. And Christian Porter should stand aside while that inquiry happens,” she said.

Sexual assault and harassment allegations are taking a toll on women working inside Parliament House, said the Greens Senator.

"It’s an exhausting place to work for all women right now, I can tell you. This government should believe women, and take real action to make every woman safe in this country.”


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