The cabinet minister at the centre of allegations of a rape in 1988 is expected to make a public statement on Wednesday addressing the claims.
The minister has engaged the services of MinterEllison partner Peter Bartlett and is expected to declare his innocence and is not planning on stepping down from his position.
The decision to go public follows confirmation on Tuesday by New South Wales police that there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to proceed with an investigation. Police say they now consider the matter “closed”.
The Australian federal police have also confirmed they will not pursue the allegations. Commissioner Reece Kershaw confirmed to 2GB that the jurisdiction to investigate a historical rape allegation “doesn’t rest with the AFP”.
Staring down calls for an independent investigation into the claims, Scott Morrison told reporters on Monday it was up to police to “determine the veracity of any allegations of this nature”.
But 24 hours later, the NSW police said there was nothing it could do to move the investigation forward, effectively putting the ball back in Morrison’s court.
“Following the woman’s death, NSW police came into possession of a personal document purportedly made by the woman previously,” a NSW police spokesperson said in a written statement.
“NSW police have since sought legal advice in relation to these matters.
“Based on information provided to NSW police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed.
“As such, NSW police force has determined the matter is now closed.”
The woman who levelled the allegations against the now cabinet minister first went to Adelaide police in November 2019 for advice on how to report a historical sexual assault matter, which she alleged occurred in Sydney in 1988 when she was 16.
South Australian police referred the matter to NSW police, which took a lead role in the investigation in February 2020, establishing Strike Force Wyndarra.
However, the pandemic interfered with plans for the woman to be formally interviewed by police and she withdrew her complaint in June 2020 without having given a formal statement, and died shortly after.
A document outlining the allegations was sent to several politicians, including the prime minister. Morrison suggested this week he had not read it, but had been briefed on its contents and had referred the matter to the AFP, which has no jurisdiction over sexual assault claims.
Morrison said the minister had “vigorously denied” the allegations. The government has so far resisted pressure for an independent investigation into the matter.
Given it was unlikely police would be in a position to progress the complaint, the deceased woman’s lawyer, Michael Bradley, a partner at Marque Lawyers, has urged Morrison to conduct “some kind of judicial inquiry” into the allegations. The inquiry, Bradley told Guardian Australia, needed “proper powers” in order “to afford full procedural fairness to everyone, particularly the accused man”.
Bradley has argued the current situation is “untenable” because “at the moment there are 16 [cabinet ministers] who have a cloud over them, and that cannot continue”.
“There’s really no alternative here but for the minister to step forward, identify himself and step down, and for an external, independent inquiry of some form to be put in place to investigate,” he said.
The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed Bradley’s call on Tuesday morning. Turnbull declared the minister accused of rape in 1988 “owes it to his colleagues and the country” to make a public statement addressing the allegations because the current situation is “not tenable”.
Turnbull told the ABC on Tuesday morning it was also “vitally important” for the unnamed minister to disclose to the public what he knew about the now deceased woman’s complaint and “when he knew about it”.
The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, in a tweet on Tuesday called on the prime minister to “stand down the accused minister and establish a full, independent investigation”.
The woman outlined her allegations in a statement attached to a letter sent to Morrison, the Labor senator Penny Wong and the Green senator Sarah Hanson-Young. The letter is from friends of the woman.
Hanson-Young has left open the possibility of detailing the complaint in parliament, and Turnbull raised the spectre of the opposition pursuing the issue in question time as part of arguing the current situation was untenable.
Guardian Australia has seen both the letter and the attached statement, and reported the main elements on Monday. The statement records the woman’s detailed account of events, and it references diary entires from the years following the alleged assault. The statement is an abridged version of a longer statement that Guardian Australia has not seen.
The woman’s statement says she first met the man who went on to serve as a cabinet minister in 1986. They met again the following year. The alleged assault is said to have occurred in January 1988 in Sydney, when both were teenagers.
Recounting the events leading up to the alleged assault, the woman says she ironed a shirt for the now cabinet minister in preparation for an event. He is alleged to have said to her that she “would make someone a wonderful wife one day” because she was “so smart and so pretty” and could do the “good housewife things”. According to the statement, the young man is said to have flagged interest in a career in politics, and an aspiration to be prime minister.
The statement also suggests the young man had made lewd comments about her body prior to the incident, including a negative reference about the size of her breasts.
The woman says she agreed to a non-penetrative sexual act at the man’s request after an evening out in Sydney before alleging that the now minister sexually assaulted her more than once later that evening. The details recounted in the woman’s statement are graphic.
The woman says in her statement that she was very drunk when she was assaulted, and felt “dizzy”.
She says the man helped her clean up afterwards, including washing her body and her hair. She says she was “deeply shocked and ashamed” in the aftermath, and told nobody about what had happened.
Longtime friends say she began to relay her experiences in conversations from June 2019.