Australia's Attorney-General Christian Porter addresses the media in Perth
Australia's Attorney General Christian Porter addresses the media in Perth, Australia, March 3, 2021.

SYDNEY - Opposition politicians in Australia are calling for an independent inquiry into rape allegations made against Attorney General Christian Porter. Porter has strongly denied the claim he attacked a 16-year-old girl in 1988 and has refused to resign.

A letter sent to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week alleged a serving Cabinet minister had raped a teenage girl more than 30 years ago. The woman took her own life last year.

Reports about the correspondence have been circulating for days, but the identity of the minister had not been made public. On Wednesday, Attorney General Christian Porter identified himself as the politician at the heart of the allegation.

Porter is Australia’s chief law officer and is responsible for legal affairs and national security. He strongly denies the claims, insisting he knew the woman for “the briefest periods at debating competitions” when they were teenagers.

He had this message for the family of the woman, who died last year, aged 49: “I have thought long and hard about the implications for you of what I feel that I need to say today that the things that are being claimed to have happened did not happen, that I do not mean to impose anything more upon your grief,” he said. “But I hope that you will also understand, that because what is being alleged did not happen, I must say so publicly.”

The alleged victim reported her complaint to police in the state of New South Wales in 2020, but she did not make a formal statement. The police have confirmed their investigation has been dropped because there was "insufficient admissible evidence to proceed.”

Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese is calling for an independent inquiry.

“When you have such a serious allegation made against a serving Cabinet minister, I have said that the prime minister needs to assure not just himself but assure the Australian people that the Cabinet minister is fit to serve in his current role,” he said.

Another alleged serious sexual assault has emerged at Australia’s Federal Parliament in recent weeks. A former assistant to two government ministers has said she was assaulted by a male political adviser in 2019.

Analysts have said the claim is symptomatic of a toxic, male-dominated culture at Parliament House in Canberra, where women are allegedly belittled, bullied and preyed upon.

Christian Porter has gone on two weeks’ mental health leave and is refusing to step down.