New South Wales Police Force says it will not proceed with an investigation into a historical rape allegation against a sitting cabinet minister in the federal government.
In a statement on Tuesday, the force said there was “insufficient admissible evidence to proceed” following the woman’s death.
The incident is alleged to have occurred in 1988 when the woman was 16.
The woman went to NSW police last year, but the investigation was suspended when she took her own life in Adelaide in June 2020 after telling authorities she didn’t want to proceed.
More to come.
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Senior Morrison government ministers have stressed a cabinet colleague accused of a horrific historical rape is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Labor’s Penny Wong and Prime Minister Scott Morrison were sent a letter detailing the complaint last week.
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Two more federal MPs — one Liberal and one Labor — have revealed they were aware of a historical rape allegation made against a Cabinet Minister before it became public last Friday.
Labor MP Daniel Mulino told the ABC he was contacted by the alleged victim in December 2019
Liberal MP Celia Hammond was sent a 31-page dossier outlining the allegation on Wednesday
Labor senator Penny Wong and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull were also contacted late in 2019
Labor MP Daniel Mulino told the ABC he was contacted by the alleged victim in December 2019. She was Dr Mulino’s friend.
“She indicated to me that she was determined to proceed with a formal complaint and I supported her in that decision,” he said.
“I ensured that the complainant was receiving appropriate support. I am greatly saddened by the death of my friend. I know that this has been a devastating period for the woman’s family and close friends. My thoughts are with them.”
Dr Mulino said he had told the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police and South Australian Police he was willing to assist with any investigation.
Neither spoke to police at the time because the alleged victim made it clear she was already speaking to police.
The woman went to New South Wales Police in 2020 but the investigation was suspended when she took her own life on June 24, 2020. The day before, she had told police she no longer wanted to proceed with the investigation.
South Australian Police are preparing a report into her death for the coroner.
The ABC understands the AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw also received the correspondence but by email earlier that day.
The ABC has confirmed that Celia Hammond, a WA Liberal MP, was also sent the 31-page dossier.
This is presumably because she had been asked by the Prime Minister to lead an inquiry into the Liberal Party’s workplace culture, only for it to be rolled into a broader independent investigation.
“I received a copy of the correspondence on Wednesday,” Ms Hammond told the ABC.
“I gave it to the Australian Federal Police on Wednesday afternoon and I alerted the Prime Minister’s Office.”
The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to questions about when it alerted the police about the letter, but a statement from a spokesman said reporting to the police ensured that any alleged crimes were properly investigated.
“As per the AFP Commissioner’s instruction, any complaints or allegations of this nature made to anybody — whether they’re parliamentarians or journalists — should be referred to the AFP,” the spokesman said.
Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Wong did not open the envelope until Friday morning.
AFP sent another letter containing an allegation
An allegation of rape against another federal politician has also been sent to the AFP.
Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson and Senator Hanson-Young confirmed they both received an email from a woman, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a man who is now a federal Labor MP.
In a statement, Senator Henderson said she sent the details to police.
“In immediately referring this matter to the AFP, I have followed the procedures set out by Commissioner Kershaw in his letter of 24 February 2021,” the statement said.
A Labor spokesperson said the appropriate action had been taken.
“The Australian Labor Party has seen media reports that Senator Henderson has received an allegation of sexual assault and has referred any relevant correspondence to authorities as is appropriate,” the spokesperson said.
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A letter has been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison alleging a 1988 rape by a current cabinet minister.
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Australian Federal Police have been notified of a letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailing an alleged historical rape by a Cabinet Minister in the federal government.
A letter detailing a historic rape allegation against a Cabinet Minister has been sent to the Prime Minister
The alleged offence took place in 1988 before the man entered politics
The matter has been referred to the AFP
The letter requests urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the alleged rape, which occurred in 1988 before the accused man entered politics.
The matter has also been referred to the Australian Federal Police.
The letter was forwarded to AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw by Labor’s Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, and Greens Senator Hanson-Young, who were also recipients of the letter.
Four Corners understands that Commissioner Kershaw has briefed South Australia Police and NSW Police.
The letter, shared with Four Corners by a friend of the complainant, attaches a detailed statement prepared by the complainant for her lawyer about the brutal rape she alleges took place.
NSW Police set up strike force
Last year, NSW Police set up a strike force with a view to commencing an investigation into the historical allegations about the Cabinet Minister after the woman came forward.
Strike Force Wyndarra was established by police after she reported in Sydney in February 2020 to detectives from the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad that she had been raped by the man.
The woman had engaged a lawyer and told many friends about the allegation, but took her own life in June last year.
In a statement today to Four Corners, Ms Hanson-Young said: “This morning I received information regarding a disturbing and a very serious allegation of a criminal nature against a senior member of the government.
“Following the advice given to the Prime Minister by the AFP Commissioner this week, I have spoken with the Police Commissioner today, who is now taking steps in relation to this information.”
Senator Wong told Four Corners in a statement today that she had notified NSW, SA Police and the AFP, and would assist in any investigations.
“I have also written to the Prime Minister and Senator Hanson-Young to outline the steps I have taken, following receipt of this anonymous letter,” Senator Wong said.
“It is my hope that appropriate action is taken to examine the allegation.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement: “As per the AFP Commissioner’s instruction, any complaints or allegations of this nature made to anybody — whether they’re parliamentarians or journalists — should be referred to the AFP.
“As the AFP Commissioner outlined in advice to all parliamentarians on February 25, 2021, rereporting to the police is the way to ensure any alleged crimes are properly investigated.”
South Australia Police are investigating the circumstances of the woman’s death for the state coroner.
Four Corners has seen the woman’s statement and has spoken to many friends of the complainant whom she told about what she alleged took place and who knew her at the time of the alleged incident.
The letter urges the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.
“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the correspondent wrote.
“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins.
“In [the complainant’s] case, the loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated by the aggravating factor of [the accused perpetrator’s seniority].
“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice… and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing…
“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action [due to the complainant’s death] would seem like wilful blindness.”
Wong, Turnbull also made aware of allegation
Senator Wong, who was made aware of limited detail surrounding the woman’s allegation last year by the complainant herself, contacted South Australia Police to offer her assistance in the coronial investigation when she discovered the complainant had died.
The woman had also written in 2019 to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, and he too wrote to South Australia Police with his knowledge of the allegation upon learning of her death.
South Australia Police had originally referred the woman to their NSW counterparts because she alleged the incident occurred in Sydney. SA Police are currently preparing a report into the circumstances of her death for the state’s coroner, including her early release from a psychiatric institution in Melbourne.
The coroner will then determine whether to conduct a public inquest into her death.
The woman alleged the sexual assault took place in Sydney in 1988, long before the man’s political career commenced.
NSW Police provided a statement to the ABC about the case:
“In February , NSW Police received a report of alleged historic sexual abuse. Inquiries were commenced by officers from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad under Strike Force Wyndarra.”
COVID-19 outbreak delays investigation
Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak erupted and state borders were closed.
Friends of the woman, who had years earlier been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, say her mental health deteriorated in the weeks before she took her life. She had made previous suicide attempts.
The NSW Police statement said: “On Wednesday 24 June 2020, the body of a 49-year-old woman was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police (SA Pol).”
The day before she took her life, the woman informed NSW Police that she no longer wished to proceed with the investigation.
She would have turned 50 this week.
“NSW Police understand that reporting sexual assault can be distressing and traumatic for victims — and it (is) always the choice of an individual whether to proceed with an investigation or not,” the statement said.
‘This is my story, plain and simple’
The woman’s death means a criminal investigation into the politician can no longer proceed because the allegation cannot be tested.
The woman, who had been a brilliant and celebrated student at the time of the alleged incident, had prepared a long statement for her solicitor at the end of 2019.
“This is my story, plain and simple. It’s not pretty, but it is mine,” she wrote in the statement.
“And I stand by it, every single word and image in this document is true.”
In her statement, the woman alleged she had been anally raped by the man when she was aged 16.
“All I really want, in the end, is for this to have been reported to the NSW Police Force and to know that a copy of this document, and a transcript of any interview they might do with me, is in their archives…
“If this story does become public knowledge, I hope that it will encourage other women to come forward.
“Not for me, but for themselves… I also hope that other people who have endured similar traumas, should these facts become public knowledge, will feel less alone.”
The woman had told numerous friends who had become leaders in business, politics, the law and the arts and the ABC has spoken to many of them.
“She was caught on a jag, in a very specific era, around a very specific incident. That really seemed completely consuming and completely debilitating to her,” one friend told the ABC.
“She was consumed with a trauma which she told me, deeply and consistently, was as result of an assault that had occurred, early in 1988, and her life at that point was really devoted to exploring how she could get some kind of justice, accountability and peace from that.”
In the months before her death, the woman had attended a psychiatric clinic in Melbourne.
“There were many of us that were willing to support and help her carry that burden to the extent that we could. And ultimately, of course, we couldn’t do everything we hoped,” the friend said, crying.
Another friend, who had been helping the woman find rape support counselling and who has also come forward to NSW and South Australia Police to assist with their investigations, said the woman had been frustrated because COVID had delayed police from flying from Sydney to see her in Adelaide to carry out their investigations.
“[I feel] enormous sadness,” the friend said.
A third friend told the ABC it was “such a waste”.
“A beautiful, clever, young woman with so much potential has a life squandered and a life ended far too early,” he said.
In a statement, South Australia Police told the ABC that a full report into the woman’s death is being prepared for the coroner.
“It is not completed yet and there is no timeframe provided. SAPOL will not be making any further comment as this is a matter for the coroner.”
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ABC journalist Louise Milligan reported the letter shortly before 6pm on Friday, saying the author of the letter did not identify themselves but said they were friends of the complainant who had gone to the police about the rape.
Ms Milligan said the letter asked the Prime Minister to launch an independent investigation along the lines of the inquiry the High Court commissioned into Dyson Heydon.
“Sadly the complainant in this case took her life in June last year. This matter cannot be investigated by police now,” Ms Milligan said on ABC News.
While the two senators said the anonymous letter was also addressed to Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister’s media advisers did not confirm whether the office had received the letter or the attachment.
A spokesman for Mr Morrison cited advice from the AFP commissioner in his letter to all MPs saying they should report any claims of sexual assault without delay.
“As per the AFP commissioner’s instruction, any complaints or allegations of this nature made to anybody – whether they’re parliamentarians or journalists – should be referred to the AFP,” the spokesman said.
“As the Australian Federal Police commissioner outlined in advice to all parliamentarians on 25 February 2021, reporting to the police is the way to ensure any alleged crimes are properly investigated.”
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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Defence Minister Linda Reynolds faces an agonising question. Should she say to Scott Morrison she doesn’t feel up to staying in what is one of the most demanding portfolios in the government?
Reynolds broke down in Parliament last week. On Wednesday she was hospitalised after feeling unwell. This was described as “a precautionary measure”. Her office said it followed “advice from her cardiologist relating to a pre-existing medical condition”.
Like any minister embroiled in a serious crisis over how they’ve handled an issue, Reynolds has been under immense pressure since the Brittany Higgins story first appeared on Monday of last week.
Morrison publicly criticised her for not informing him when the incident occurred in 2019 that there was a rape allegation. The opposition in the Senate pursued her relentlessly and this week she had to correct information she’d given.
She’s also personally anguished about her conduct given that, although she appears to have done the best she could for Higgins at the time, Higgins now says she did not feel supported.
This is not the first occasion Reynolds has shown the stress the job can impose on her.
It was clear after the release late last year of the report on alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, which was followed by a row over whether a meritorious unit citation should be removed.
Reynolds found herself caught between backing the strong position taken by Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell and the more political stance of Morrison, who was listening to the predictable backlash from some veterans and their supporters.
Reynolds has been left politically weakened
Leaving aside the Higgins matter, Reynolds has plenty of critics of her portfolio performance. Now she is under fire, they have their own reasons for raising doubts about her future.
Her detractors describe her as a “nice person”, but a minister lacking the capacity or political authority to deal with the defence behemoth and its continuing problems such as the vexed submarine program.
Although she was formerly in the Australian Defence Force, and so had knowledge of its issues and culture, Reynolds had limited ministerial experience when she moved into this mega job. She was given the defence industry post shortly before the 2019 election, with the promise of taking over the senior portfolio after it. It was all about Morrison’s number of women.
On the other hand, Reynolds has defenders. Neil James, of the Australia Defence Association, says her comparatively limited ministerial seniority is a handicap at times, but maintains:
“We can see no reason to move her as long as her health holds up, and it’s hard to see anyone in the party who could do a better job. New ministers require six months to read into the role — and we can’t afford six months’ further delay now.”
Morrison says he has confidence in Reynolds and looks forward to her coming back. Whatever he thinks, in all the circumstances — not least that she’s a high-profile female — it would be difficult for him to push her out of defence in the immediate future.
So, at least at this moment, her future rests in her own hands. And it is a painful choice.
If she stepped away from the defence job, it would be seen as conceding to her attackers (or to Morrison’s criticism).
Also, she has been in this portfolio less than two years and it would be galling to leave when, she might argue, she’ll have more runs on the board with more time.
But this fortnight has left her politically weakened, and the question of her health will hang over her. She is from Western Australia and the travelling for ministers from that state is particularly gruelling.
A different, less gigantic portfolio would better suit Reynolds’ abilities and situation. That, of course, is assuming her health is robust enough for her to continue in politics.
The wheels of justice have started turning
One mentioned successor for defence, if Reynolds left it, is Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Dutton this week was himself drawn in by the tentacles of the Higgins matter. After Higgins re-engaged with the police on February 5, the Australian Federal Police alerted Dutton on Thursday, February 11. This was proper under the protocols for what are defined as “sensitive” investigations.
Dutton says: “I took a decision at that time that I wasn’t going to inform the prime minister because this was an operational matter.”
“…as a courtesy to the Prime Minister’s Office on the 12th, when there were media inquiries, we provided some detail to him, just that the AFP had an interest in this matter and I wasn’t provided with the ‘she said, he said’ details of the allegations. It was at a higher level and that’s the basis on which we provided information to the PM.”
This information went from Dutton’s chief of staff to John Kunkel, Morrison’s chief of staff.
We previously knew the PM’s press office worked from Friday February 12 through that weekend on questions from a journalist about the Higgins matter — without telling Morrison. With Dutton’s disclosure, we now know the most senior PMO staffer was also informed on the Friday — and didn’t mention anything to his boss.
The information didn’t raise a red flag for Kunkel, apparently because it was vague. Those who argue the silence was driven by a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach ignore the fact that would be counterproductive when someone was obviously going to “ask” very soon, and the PM would be caught short.
Before the December reshuffle, Dutton trailed his coat for the defence portfolio, when there was quite a push against Reynolds. If he does eventually get the job (whatever the timing), one question that exercises the bureaucracy is whether he could take with him his present departmental head, Mike Pezzullo (maybe with a lag, while the successor settled into home affairs).
Pezzullo, a hawk and lead author of the 2009 defence white paper when he was in the Defence Department, is the toughest senior operator in the public service. Some say he’d be just what defence needs; others say the military and some defence officials would be apoplectic.
The reverberations of the Higgins affair for the government will continue rumbling for some time. But in the most positive development of the week, with Higgins laying a formal complaint against her alleged assailant, the wheels of justice have started turning, albeit nearly two years after they should have.
Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and chief political correspondent at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.
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Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has taken medical leave and been admitted to hospital as a “precautionary measure”.
The Defence Minister was due to appear at the National Press Club on Wednesday
Former staffer Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped by a colleague in Senator Reynolds’s office in 2019
Senator Reynolds has faced sustained pressure for her handling of the allegations in the last week
Senator Reynolds was due to address the National Press Club today, where she was expected to face questions about her handling of sexual allegations made by her former staffer, Brittany Higgins.
In a statement, Senator Reynolds said she was taking medical leave on the advice of her cardiologist, and that it related to a pre-existing medical condition.
The statement said Prime Minister Scott Morrison has phoned Senator Reynolds to “express his concern and sympathy”.
Ms Higgins plans to make a formal complaint to police today, alleging a male colleague raped her inside Senator Reynolds’s ministerial office in 2019.
Senator Reynolds has faced sustained pressure over her handling of the alleged rape complaint.
Ms Higgins said she hoped Senator Reynolds was “okay” and wished her “all the best for her recovery”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will act as Defence Minister until Senator Reynolds returns to work.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters at Parliament House that Ms Reynolds had taken the leave reluctantly.
“Linda was desperate to appear before the National Press Club today, desperate to appear,” he said.
“It was only on the strongest medical advice that she took the reluctant decision not to do it.”
Senator Reynolds was the defence industry minister when the alleged rape occurred in March 2019.
Mr Morrison promoted her to Cabinet and the senior defence portfolio after the 2019 election.
She has faced internal pressure within the Coalition in the last week, with some MPs and senators telling the ABC they thought she should resign or be sacked.
Mr Hunt said Senator Reynolds needed support as she received medical assistance.
“I think our compassion, our focus on the needs of others in this, the most intense environment in the country, is something that all of us need to bring to the forth,” he said.
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More people died in Japan from suicide than from COVID-19 in October 2020.
2 min read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
Japanappointed a “Minister of Loneliness” this month to help reduce social isolation among the population due to the first increase in suicide rates in 11 years.
As reported by the Japan Times , Tetsushi Sakamoto, who served as the minister seeking to reverse the decline in the birth rate in Japan, will take over overseeing government policies to deal with loneliness and isolation.
“Women are suffering more isolation (than men) and the number of suicides is on an increasing trend,” Suga told Sakamoto at a press conference on February 12 announcing the new role, according to the Japan Times . “I hope they identify problems and promote policy measures in a comprehensive manner.”
Loneliness is a recurring mental health problem in Japan that is known as “hikikomori” when it reaches the extreme, something that has increased due to social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This appears to have caused suicides to rise for the first time in more than a decade .
For example, Japan’s National Police Agency reported that more people died from suicide than from COVID-19 in October 2020 , with women having increased by 70% annually.
“I look forward to activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and protect ties between people,” Sakamoto said at the February 12 press conference.
Japan’s new loneliness minister said he plans to hold an emergency forum in late February to hear the concerns of people facing loneliness and isolation.
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West Bengal government spent Rs 3.1 lakh crore in these six years in different projects: Amit Mitra
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Sunday accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of providing misinformation about disbursement of funds by the centre to the state during a political rally and challenged him for a debate.
He said the state government had received Rs 1.13 lakh crore from the centre in the last six years, which is “nothing more than one-third of what the Union minister claimed”.
Mr Shah, in his recent visit to the poll-bound West Bengal, had reportedly said the centre provided Rs 3.59 lakh crore to the state.
“He has given wrong, misleading and politically-motivated information. The centre, as a part of the federal structure, collects taxes from states and shares. We had received only Rs 1.13 lakh crore in the last 6 years (FY14 to FY20),” Mr Mitra told reporters.
Referring to his estimate, Mr Mitra said the centre might have collected around Rs 5 lakh crore in these years in the form of direct and indirect taxes from West Bengal and sent only Rs 1.13 lakh crore through central schemes.
Mr Mitra said the West Bengal government had spent Rs 3.1 lakh crore in these six years in different projects, which are fully sponsored by the state, apart from expenditures like salary, pension and other administrative expenses.
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