Long-time friends of the woman who accused Attorney-General Christian Porter of raping her in 1988 at a school debating event stand by their belief in the truth of their friend’s account based on her demeanour when describing her claims in 2019.
Jo Dyer, who was a debater with the woman in the late 1980s, knew a cohort of seven national school champion debaters from that time, which included Mr Porter and the deceased woman. She said the five others in that group all believed the woman when she told them her story decades later.
Christian Porter said repeatedly and vehemently on Wednesday that there was no truth to the accusations against him.Credit:Trevor Collens
“We will stand up for that and continue to support our deceased friend,” he said.
Mr Porter said repeatedly and vehemently on Wednesday that there was no truth to the accusations against him, saying they “just did not happen” and arguing an independent investigation would require him to prove a negative.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and former prime minister John Howard backed Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who argued on Thursday “the rule of law” required the police to investigate rather than establishing an independent inquiry.
“Australians – whether it’s Christian Porter or yourself or myself or any other Australian citizen – are entitled to the presumption of innocence,” Mr Frydenberg said on Nine’s Today show.
A separate inquiry “would say that our rule of law and our police are not competent to deal with these issues,” Mr Morrison said. “And they are competent to deal with these issues. They have reviewed the materials and they’ve formed their assessment.”
NSW Police closed an investigation into Mr Porter this week as there was insufficient evidence to proceed because the woman is dead. South Australian police are investigating her death for the state coroner.
Mr Morrison backed his cabinet minister, who is in the middle of a high-stakes fight over the future of Australia’s industrial laws with Labor and the unions, to return to work at the end of his medical leave.
“I’m pleased that [Mr Porter] is taking some time to get support to deal with what has obviously been a very traumatic series of events,” Mr Morrison said. “He is looking forward to coming back and resuming his duties.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday issued his strongest calls for an independent inquiry, joining the Greens and members of the crossbench.
“The Prime Minister needs to provide a fair and independent process for all involved,” Mr Albanese said. “Changing culture starts with taking responsibility. It’s about time that this Prime Minister took responsibility for leading.”
NSW Police issued a statement on Thursday that described an email from the woman on June 23, 2020 thanking investigators for their efforts but saying she no longer wanted to pursue her claims because of “medical and personal reasons”. Police responded a day later and on the 25th were told that she had taken her own life.
Screenwriter and producer Rick Kalowski, whose friendship with the deceased woman dated to university in 1990, said her decision to tell police to stop investigating was not an indication she had recanted.
“She said to me … that the only situation in which she could not continue with her formal complaint process was if she felt that she simply couldn’t continue with life at all, in other words, if she decided she would take her own life,” Mr Kalowski said.
Mr Kalowski, who also knew Mr Porter from debating, had met with the woman immediately after she spoke to police in Sydney in February 2020 and drove her to the airport.
“She was lucid, calm, rational, attentive, forensic,” Mr Kalowski said of the woman’s mental state when the two spoke regularly of their lives in the months leading up to her death. “In no way was she delusional or away with the fairies.”
“We are not out for blood or to destroy anyone, we are simply out to seek justice for [our friend] as best as can be achieved in circumstances where she is no longer alive.”
National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732. Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).
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