La­bor cri­sis over sex scan­dal

NSW LEADER QUITS, PO­LICE CON­TACT ABC AF­TER JOUR­NAL­IST AL­LEGES AS­SAULT IN A CITY BAR

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW CLENNELL NSW PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

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

JOHN FEDER

Luke Fo­ley yes­ter­day an­nounces­nounces he is stand­ing down as leader

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