Labor crisis over sex scandal
NSW LEADER QUITS, POLICE CONTACT ABC AFTER JOURNALIST ALLEGES ASSAULT IN A CITY BAR
Luke Foley, the man Labor hoped could return the party to power in NSW, faces a possible police investigation after sensationally quitting as opposition leader yesterday when an ABC reporter accused him of drunkenly placing his hands inside her underwear at a Christmas Party.
Labor has been plunged into a leadership crisis just months out from the NSW election after journalist Ashleigh Raper issued a detailed statement about the night she “completely froze” when Mr Foley allegedly slid a hand under her outfit in front of another journalist after a Christmas party in November 2016.
“He put his hand through a gap in the back of my dress and inside my underpants,” Raper alleged.
“He rested his hand on my buttocks.”
Raper said Mr Foley had contacted her on Sunday, confirmed the incident and said he would resign — only to renege two days later, saying he had legal advice not to step down.
She said he told her: “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot.”
A defiant Mr Foley said late yesterday he denied the claims but was resigning as leader because he was unable to fight to clear his name at the same time he faced an election.
“I’ve retained solicitors and senior counsel to advise on the immediate commencement of defamation proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia,” he said.
NSW police yesterday confirmed they had spoken to senior ABC management and said if Raper made a complaint, it would be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated by detectives.
Police sources said given the nature of the allegation, potential charges could range from a lower category sexual assault to indecent assault.
At a caucus meeting expected as early as tomorrow, deputy Labor leader Michael Daley, the member for Maroubra, is expected to take over as opposition leader but could well face a contest against Kogarah MP and oppo- sition water spokesman Chris Minns.
Scott Morrison said he would not act as “judge and jury” but he found the allegations to be shocking. “When I reviewed the statement that had been provided by the young journalist in question, (it was) very shocking,” the Prime Minister said.
“The alleged behaviour of Mr Foley is very, very shocking and concerning.”
Labor’s defence spokesman Richard Marles described the scandal as a “really sad situation”.
“Ashleigh Raper has made her statement now. That’s a brave thing to do,” he told Sky News.
“There are obviously very serious allegations contained within it. I’ve got no doubt that Luke Foley and his team will be working through the repercussions of that as we speak.”
Raper, who yesterday referred to her “young family”, said she had made her statement because “women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour” and because she wanted to “get on with my life”.
She also took a shot at NSW Corrective Services Minister David Elliott for raising the matter under parliamentary privilege last month. “It is clear to me that a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made.”
He put his hand through a gap in the e back of my dress and d inside my underpants. ts. He rested his hand on my buttocks ASHLEIGH RAPER YESTERDAY
The allegations made against me today made public by the ABC are false LUKE FOLEY YESTERDAY
The ABC declined to respond to Mr Foley’s denial but news director Gaven Morris tweeted: “Ashleigh Raper is a strong and honest person. The ABC stands by this statement.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be buoyed by the leadership change — less than five months before the state election — with the most recent Newspoll showing the government and Labor 50-50 on a two-party-preferred basis and the parliament headed for minority government. Recent internal polling showed similar results.
The future of Mr Foley in the parliament, despite his defamation threat, is said to be in doubt, with Labor last night considering a disendorsement of him from his seat of Auburn.
After Raper’s statement was released, Mr Foley dug in for several hours, despite being advised by Labor head office to resign.
Raper said Mr Foley called her on Sunday and spoke with her for 19 minutes. “He said he was sorry and that he was full of remorse for his behaviour towards me … He told me that he had wanted to talk to me about that night on many occasions over the past two years because while he was drunk and couldn’t remember all the details of the night, he knew he did something to offend me,” she said.
Raper said Mr Foley told her he would resign on Monday or Wednesday and ruled out Tuesday as he didn’t want to appear to be “burying the story” on Melbourne Cup Day. “On Tuesday (November 6), Mr Foley called me again,” Raper said. “He repeated his apology and told me he owed me ‘a lot of contrition’. He informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader. He indicated he intended to follow that advice.”
Labor MPs last night expressed consternation at Mr Foley’s threat to sue. One said reading Raper’s statement “made me want to vomit”.
Mr Daley has the support of Labor general secretary Kaila Murnain and is expected to have the numbers in a caucus ballot, although Mr Minns was making calls last night.
When The Australian first put the incident to Raper in April, she declined to comment. Mr Foley’s office at the time threatened to sue The Australian if it published the full allegations.
‘Ashleigh Raper is a strong and honest person. The ABC stands by this statement’ GAVEN MORRIS ABC NEWS DIRECTOR
Luke Foley yesterday announcesnounces he is standing down as leader