Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled Attorney-General Christian Porter "an innocent man", while a Canberra-based MP has revealed he knew the woman who made the accusation against Mr Porter, but didn't know about the allegation until after her death.
Labor MP for the seat of Bean in Canberra's south David Smith said the woman who made the rape allegation against Mr Porter confided in his wife Liesl Centenera in 2019, but only said in a vague way that something terrible had happened to her, and didn't name Mr Porter.
Other federal MPs, including Mr Smith's close friend Daniel Mulino, have confirmed they knew about the rape allegation made against Mr Porter before a 31-page dossier was sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and two other federal senators two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison again rejected calls for an independent inquiry into what happened, and whether Mr Porter should continue as first law officer of the country, declaring he was "innocent".
"He's a fine Attorney-General and a fine Minister for Industrial Relations, and he is an innocent man under our law," Mr Morrison said.
"To suggest that there should be some different treatment applied to him, based on what have been allegations that the police have closed the matter on, I think that would be grossly inappropriate to take actions against him on that basis."
Mr Morrison also rebuffed calls for him to seek the advice of the Solicitor-General over Mr Porter's position, saying his department had not advised him to do so.
"That is not the advice that I've been provided at any time during the course of managing this," he said.
While Mr Smith was also a keen debater, he wasn't at the event in Sydney in 1988, and says he knew the deceased woman through mutual friends over many years, rather than through debating.
It has been revealed the woman who made the accusation was at Mr Smith's first speech in the House of Representatives, sitting next to his wife Liesl Centenera. But Mr Smith says she was in attendance due to her close friendship with Mr Mulino, not for him.
The woman who made the accusation has not been publicly identified, and died by suicide in June 2020. She was a talented debater, and alleged she was raped by the Attorney-General in Sydney in 1988, where they were both representing Australia in the World Schools Debating Championship.
Mr Porter has strenuously denied the allegation, and NSW Police have said the investigation has been closed due to a lack of admissible evidence. The woman first made contact with NSW Police in February 2020, but didn't make a sworn statement. Police planned a trip to the woman's home in South Australia in March last year, but the plans were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
In the days before taking her life, she contacted NSW Police and asked that the investigation be called off.
While they mixed in the same crowds, and would over the years see each other at friends' milestone parties, Mr Smith said he didn't want to overstate their friendship.
She was "a friendly person" and they "got on quite well," Mr Smith said.
Friends of the woman have confirmed in other media reports that she had begun to share her story among friends in 2019, including the allegation against Mr Porter, and talk about going to the police in NSW about her allegation.
Mr Smith said he did not hear the allegation from the woman, but that she had told his wife in 2019 that something had happened to her many years before.
Mr Smith said he didn't know of the disclosure at the time.
Footage of the day of Mr Smith and Mr Mulino's first speeches to Parliament in 2019 shows the woman sitting next to Ms Centenera and Mr Smith's family.
"She was particularly kind to my daughter on the day of the speech," Mr Smith recalls.
"She kind of entertained her, made a paper toy for my daughter.
"There was a couple of acts of kindness on that day."
He supports the calls for an independent inquiry into the matter.
"She deserves to have her voice heard," Mr Smith said.
Mr Porter is on leave from his role as Attorney-General, and is expected to miss all of the next sitting week, when Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will take over his role as leader of the house.
The Australian Electoral Commission is set to hand down its proposed redistribution of the federal Western Australian electorates next Friday, with commentators expecting either Mr Porter's seat or that of Labor's Anne Aly will be removed due to the declining population in the state.
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