Barnaby Joyce has broken ranks with the government to call for an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegation levelled at Christian Porter to avoid a media “mosh pit” when he returns to Canberra.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted growing calls for an independent probe into claims Mr Porter raped a 16-year old in 1988 – allegations he emphatically denies.
But Nationals MP Mr Joyce said the government would “not survive the vacuum” by expecting the issue to disappear.
He warned Mr Porter and the government would be subjected to the allegations being fleshed out in the media without an investigation.
“I’m at odds with my colleagues, but I think that that is a more sustainable and dignified way to go forward,” he said.
“It will be a mosh pit as soon as Christian sticks his head up there in Canberra, and I just don’t think politically that’s tenable.”
NSW Police were unable to pursue a criminal probe into the matter, citing “insufficient admissible evidence” after the alleged victim took her own life in 2020.
Mr Joyce said he preferred the investigation to be confidential to respect her family and to allow Mr Porter to “give a good account of himself”.
When pressed by reporters on Monday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the allegation had not been fully investigated.
“The fact that you are asking questions here today at this press conference is an indication of the fact that this has not been examined,” he said.
“Any examination of what has occurred over the last two weeks would suggest that it is obvious that there is a need to examine these issues independently, because if not it will be examined through questions like the one I have just received.”
But Mr Morrison has insisted the allegation was a matter for police, arguing an independent inquiry would establish a second tier of the justice system based on a “mob process”.
But he has backed a coronial inquest into the alleged victim’s death, which could call Mr Porter to give evidence.
South Australian State Coroner David Whittle revealed last week he considered an investigation into the woman’s suicide “incomplete”.
The family of the alleged victim on Thursday joined friends in backing calls for an independent probe into her death.
“The family of the deceased continue to experience considerable grief arising from their loss,” a spokeswoman for the family told The Australian.
“They are supportive of any inquiry which would potentially shed light on the circumstances surrounding the deceased’s passing.”
Outing himself as the minister at the centre of the allegation last week, Mr Porter questioned the viability of such a probe.
“What would I say in front of that inquiry? What would that inquiry ask me to do?” he said.
“To disprove something that didn’t happen 33 years ago. I honestly don’t know what I would say to that inquiry.”
Mr Porter has taken mental health leave following the allegations but has refused to resign, saying it would set a dangerous precedent whereby anyone accused of a crime would lose their job without due process.
It comes after fresh revelations from the ABC’s Four Corners that the woman told a counsellor about the alleged rape in 2013 and referred to the alleged perpetrator as “Christian”.