Australia’s attorney general Christian Porter has identified himself as the cabinet minister named in a historical rape allegation.
Mr Porter told a news conference in the city of Perth that he knew the woman as a teenager but that the alleged rape “simply did not happen”.
He said: “I can say categorically that what has been put in various forms in allegations simply did not happen.
“Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened.”
The allegation was contained in an anonymous letter sent to the prime minister’s office in February.
The letter contained a statement from the complainant alleging a rape had occurred in the state of New South Wales in 1988, before Mr Porter entered politics.
The woman, who has not been publicly named, reported the allegation to police before taking her own life last year at the age of 49.
This week, New South Wales Police said there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to investigate and that the case was closed, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.
Mr Porter said he had waited until the police case was concluded before speaking, adding: “Staying silent, following the rules – a very difficult decision. I have been subject to the most wild, unrestrained allegations in Australian politics.”
Before a story last week by the ABC, “nobody in law enforcement or the law or politics or the media ever put any substance with any specific allegations to me at all”, he said.
But he also said he had been aware of a “whispering campaign” over the past few months.
Mr Porter was emotional as he said he would be taking a “short period of leave” to “assess and hopefully improve” his mental health.
He refused to stand down from his post, however, saying: “If that happens, anyone in public life is able to be removed simply by the printing of an allegation. Every child we raise can have their lives destroyed by online reporting alone.
“My guess is that if I were to resign, and that were to set a new standard, there would be no need for an attorney general because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country.”
On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had forwarded the anonymous letter to the police, discussing the allegation with the federal police commissioner before deciding not to take any further action.
He said: “We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicised through the media is grounds for… governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that.”
But it comes just two weeks after Mr Morrison apologised in parliament to a former government staffer who said she was raped by a senior colleague in a minister’s office two years ago.
Brittany Higgins had initially not gone to the police because she was worried about her employment, but she reactivated her complaint after quitting her job in January.
The alleged rapist in this case has not been publicly named, but was fired for breaching security by taking Ms Higgins into a minister’s office after a night of heavy drinking.
Three other women have made sexual misconduct allegations against this man since she went public.
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