ABC journalist alleges harassment by NSW Opposition Leader

ABC News reporter Ashleigh Raper has alleged that New South Wales opposition leader, Luke Foley, put his hands inside her underpants at a Christmas function in 2016 .

Ashleigh Raper, who has been with ABC since 2008, has released a statement detailing events and a recent phone call with the Labor leader, in which she reveals she “froze” when the alleged actions took place.

Foley has previously denied allegations that he harassed a journalist at the Christmas party, after they were aired last month by a Liberal MP under parliamentary privilege.

In a statement ABC said, “The ABC’s first priority is and always has been the welfare of our employee, journalist Ashleigh Raper. ABC management first became aware of the matter following media enquiries in April this year. At this time ABC management spoke with Ms Raper, who made it clear she did not wish to make a formal complaint or take any action and wished the matter to remain confidential.  The ABC respected her wishes but took all steps to ensure Ms Raper received complete management support.

“In February 2018, Ms Raper asked to be reassigned from State Parliament to general reporting shifts for reasons unrelated to the incident and before media enquiries were received. There has been no change to the work assignments given to Ms Raper. There is absolutely no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Ms Raper and her career should not be affected in any way.”

The next NSW state election is due to be held in March 2019.

Full statement by Ashleigh Raper:

This is a position I never wanted to be in and a statement I never intended to make.

But I think the time has come for my voice to be heard, for the following reasons:

The escalation of the public debate, including in state and federal parliament, despite my expressed wish to neither comment nor complain, and the likelihood of ongoing media and political interest.

Two recent phone conversations with the Leader of the New South Wales Opposition Luke Foley.

To set the record straight.

In November 2016 I attended an official Christmas function at New South Wales Parliament House for state political reporters, politicians and their staff.

This is what happened on that night.

The party moved from Parliament House to Martin Place Bar after a number of hours.

Later in the evening, Luke Foley approached a group of people, including me, to say goodnight.

He stood next to me.

He put his hand through a gap in the back of my dress and inside my underpants.

He rested his hand on my buttocks.

I completely froze.

This was witnessed by Sean Nicholls, who was then the state political editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and is now an ABC journalist.

Mr Foley then left the bar.

Sean and I discussed what happened.

As shaken as I was, I decided not to take any action and asked Sean to keep the events in the strictest confidence.

He has honoured that.

I chose not to make a complaint for a number of reasons.

It is clear to me that a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made.

I cherished my position as a state political reporter and feared that would be lost.

I also feared the negative impact the publicity could have on me personally and on my young family.

This impact is now being felt profoundly.

When a reporter contacted me earlier this year after hearing about the incident, I informed ABC news management about Mr Foley’s actions.

I told them I didn’t wish to make a complaint or for any further action to be taken.

They respected my request for privacy and have offered me nothing but their absolute care and support.

David Elliot raised the matter in the New South Wales Parliament last month, putting the incident in the public domain.

The matter then became a state and federal political issue and resulted in intense media attention.

This occurred without my involvement or consent.

Last Sunday (4 November) Luke Foley called me on my mobile phone and we had a conversation that lasted 19 minutes.

He said he was sorry and that he was full of remorse for his behaviour towards me at the Press Gallery Christmas function in November 2016.

He told me that he had wanted to talk to me about that night on many occasions over the past two years because, while he was drunk and couldn’t remember all the details of the night, he knew he did something to offend me.

He apologised again and told me, “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot”.

He said he would be resigning as the leader of the New South Wales Labor Party on either the next day (Monday, 5 November) or Wednesday (7 November).

He said he couldn’t resign on the Tuesday because it was Melbourne Cup Day and he didn’t want to be accused of burying the story.

On Tuesday (6 November) Mr Foley called me again.

He repeated his apology and told me he owed me “a lot of contrition”.

He informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader.

He indicated he intended to follow that advice.

There are three things I want to come from my decision to make this statement.

First, women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour.

And I want it to stop.

Second, situations like mine should not be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring.

And I want it to stop.

Third, I want to get on with my life.

I do not wish to make any further comment.

Updated: Luke Foley has resigned his position and plans to launch Defamation action.

“I can’t fight to clear my name and fight an election at the same time. It’s just not possible to do both,” he said.

“This will enable a new leader to give his or her full attention to the task of defeating the Liberal National Government.”

Source: The Guardian

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