Journalists have rejected Christian Porter’s claim that no one from the media had ever contacted him about the specific allegations of historic rape before publishing details.
At his press conference in Perth the attorney general said he had been subjected to a “public trial by media”, saying he had not been presented with the specific allegations that were made against him.
“Something that I am just personally struggling to even wrap my head around is that all of this has happened and I have never been contacted in any substantive form by anyone putting to me the details of what appears is now being alleged against me,” Porter said.
His comments echoed those he made last year after the broadcast of the ABC’s Four Corners report Inside the Canberra Bubble, which alleged inappropriate conduct by Porter and an affair by the now education minister Alan Tudge.
“No one put anything in any detail to me seeking a response,” Porter said on Wednesday. “None of the senior politicians or ex-politicians that have known about these allegations and rumours put them to me. No journalist has put the detail of the allegations to me in a way that would allow seeking a response, not ever. All I know about the allegations is what I have read in the media.”
But journalists including those from the ABC, Guardian Australia, Crikey, the Sydney Morning Herald and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell say they either called or emailed Porter’s media advisers many times and were ignored.
A spokesman for Porter told Guardian Australia the minister was referring to never having received in any substantive form the allegations against him “before they were aired on ABC last Friday and not to enquiries driven by the ABC’s airing of the allegations”.
“Clearly he was not referencing subsequent media enquiries,” the spokesman said. “There’s not much point putting the allegations to the attorney general after they’ve been printed.
“Further, the attorney general has never seen or had put to him the statement or pack of documents from the complainant that media has used as the basis for their reporting. To have received them when he was the subject of them and they were matters for law enforcement agencies, it would have been inappropriate for him to access them.”
On Friday, the Four Corners investigative journalist Louise Milligan reported that Australian federal police had been notified of a letter sent to Scott Morrison detailing an alleged historical rape by “a cabinet minister in the federal government”, without naming Porter.
The story said the alleged offence took place in 1988 before the man entered politics.
Crikey investigative reporter Amber Schultz said she had emailed “every single male cabinet minister’s media team multiple times this week and have not received any response from anyone”.
Guardian Australia sent detailed questions to Porter’s office seeking a response to the Four Corners story but they were never acknowledged and phone calls on the weekend went unreturned.
Nine Entertainment broadcaster Neil Mitchell said his radio program on 3AW in Melbourne had tried to contact Porter’s office, but calls were not returned.
The ABC confirmed its reporters repeatedly contacted Porter’s office to give every opportunity for a response.
The ABC also contacted the prime minister’s office and as soon as he conveyed the strenuous denial from the unnamed minister the statement was published in the story.
Morrison’s statement to the ABC was: “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.”
Last year Porter attacked Milligan for purportedly not contacting him before the November broadcast of Four Corners when in fact producer Lucy Carter had put 21 questions to his office.
“The journalist, Louise Milligan, never contacted me or my office, despite my awareness that for many months she has been directly contacting friends, former colleagues, former students – even old school friends from the mid-1980s – asking for rumours and negative comments about me,” Porter said last year.
Milligan later told a book launch that the Morrison government had a siege mentality when it came to questions about ministerial conduct.
“We gave those ministers [Porter and Tudge] two-and-a-half weeks’ notice of the story and … they didn’t answer any of our questions,” she said. “They fired off a whole lot of off-the-record emails in which they tried to emotionally manipulate and threaten us.”
Porter later acknowledged there had been “some back and forth” between his office and the ABC. “We wanted particulars,” he said. But Porter said some comments made in the program “were never put to me”.
News Corp journalists have been approached for comment.
• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. International helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org.