Parliament hit with review amid rape claims
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins will lead an independent review into federal parliamentary workplaces.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham released the terms of reference for the review on Friday, coming in the wake of revelations about the alleged rape of ex-Liberal staffter Brittany Higgins in a minister's office in 2019 and historical rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Mr Birmingham said the past few weeks have been "deeply distressing and confronting".
"They've been especially distressing and confronting for victims of harassment, bullying and sexual abuse around Australia ... particularly in parliamentary workplaces," he said.
Ms Jenkins will provide her first update of the review in July this year, before releasing her full findings in November.
"Our desire is that this is a long enough time for it to be a thorough and comprehensive piece of work, but also to get a response back this year (so) we can then act on the recommendations."
Mr Birmingham said it would not be an investigative review and that the terms of reference was designed after extensive consultation, including with former staff "who have been in the media in recent days and weeks".
"This review is about achieving systemic change."
Reviewing the "legislative, cultural, structural and other barriers" to reporting incidents in parliamentary workplaces form part of the terms of reference, as well as the current response and reporting mechanisms currently in place.
Mr Birmingham said the Parliament of Australia "should set the standard for the nation".
Ms Jenkins will provide her first update of the review in July this year, before releasing her full findings in November. The report will be made public.
PORTER'S NEW CLAIM
Attorney-General Christian Porter now says it is possible that he had further contact with his accuser after initially saying he had never met his accuser again after a debating contest in Sydney in 1988.
On Wednesday when Mr Porter revealed he was the MP at the centre of rape allegations which he strenuously denies, he said: "I remember the person as an intelligent, bright, happy person, but I hadn't had any contact from that person, at all, to the best of my recollection, in the 33 years since that time in January 1988."
But the woman's unsworn affidavit claims they had dinner in Perth in 1994.
In a statement to news.com.au published tonight, Mr Porter's office now says it was possible he had contact with the woman after that.
Mr Porter is on leave for his mental health after identifying himself as the cabinet minister at the centre of the rape allegation on Wednesday.
NSW Police said its investigation into the matter had been closed due to insufficient admissible evidence, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was no precedent or process for investigating the matter.
It comes as NSW Police have said that the woman who alleged she was raped by Attorney-General Christian Porter more than 30 years ago had not wanted to proceed with a sexual assault claim because of medical and personal reasons.
The new information comes as the woman's parents said they would support "any inquiry" into the circumstances leading to their daughter's death.
According to a detailed police statement released on Thursday, the woman advised police on 27 February 2020 that she had health issues and suffered from a dissociative disorder.
NSW Police investigators were in contact with her over five months before she dropped the claim.
According to the police statement, the alleged victim told detectives she didn't want to proceed with a sexual assault complaint a day before she committed suicide on June 24.
Since the alleged victim had not provided a formal statement before she died, police could not approach Mr Porter for questioning.
The woman, who claimed that she was raped by Christian Porter when he was 17 and she was 16 at a school debating tournament in Sydney in 1988, withdrew a complaint to NSW Police in June 2020, and died the following day in South Australia.
Mr Porter has strenuously denied the allegations, saying the events described by the woman "didn't happen" and there is no suggestion he had any involvement in the woman's death.
The South Australian coroner has left open the possibility of an inquiry into the woman's death, and a number of Labor and media figures have called for an independent inquiry to be called by the prime minister.
PM REJECTS CALLS FOR INQUIRY
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has addressed the allegations against Mr Porter and rejected calls for inquiries outside the police process saying it would undermine the rule of law and the presumption of innocence.
"As traumatic as these events are, that principle must continue to guide us, and will certainly continue to guide me and my government as we deal with these very sensitive issues," he said on Thursday.
"The police are competent to deal with these issues. They have reviewed the materials, and they've formed their assessment. There is not some other process. There is not the mob process. There is not the tribe-has-spoken process. That's not how we run the rule of law in Australia."
The prime minister continued: "We run the rule of law based on police. On courts. On judicial systems. On rules of evidence. On presumption of innocence. That's how liberal democracies function.
"If you don't go too far from here, you will find countries where the rule of law does not apply. And 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, in whatever the circumstances.
"We must reflect on that principle, because it is that principle that underguards our democracy itself. The presumption of innocence."
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. Those with personal issues are urged to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Originally published as Porter's new claim after woman insisted cops shut case