New South Wales Opposition Leader Luke Foley’s announced his resignation as leader at press conference this evening. This was after the ABC journalist at the centre of sexual misconduct allegations Ashleigh Raper came forward to claim that Foley behaved inappropriately towards her at a Christmas Party in 2016.
Foley had publicly denied that any incident took place and continued this denial this evening’s press conference and announced he was launching defamation actions in the federal court in response to today’s statements from Raper and the ABC. Foley said he would stay on as backbencher but that “I can’t fight to clear my name and fight an election at the same time. It’s just not possible to do both”.
The reaction from state Labor MPs to this statement was that they were “shocked and appalled” and said about Foley “he can’t survive”. Labor MP Trish Doyle went on the record calling on Foley to resign or she would call a spill.
In a statement released on the ABC’s website Raper claimed that Foley “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”. The incident was witnessed by fellow journalist Sean Nicholls who agreed to keep it in the strictest of confidence.
Raper said that “this is a position I never wanted to be in and a statement I never intended to make” due to the fact that “a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made” and feared the impact on her career, family and friends. But it was important that “women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour” and for it to “be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring”.
The incident was raised two weeks ago in the New South Wales Parliament by Corrections Minister David Elliott. Foley threatened to sue Elliot if he repeated it outside of parliament, denied the allegations and also threaten to dish the dirt on New South Wales Government figures. With Foley’s statement tonight it is now clear he is now following on with that threat.
In Raper’s statement she claimed that Luke Foley contacted her on November 4 to apologize and said “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot”. He also told her he would be resigning as state Labor leader on November 5 or 7. Then on November 6 he said he had received legal advice not to resign.
The frontrunner to replace Foley and lead Labor in the March 2019 state election is Deputy Michael Daley. The Berejiklian Government had been struggling in the polls but it remains to the seen if this period of Labor turmoil will return the Liberal/National Coalition as the frontrunner in the election and win a third term.