SYDNEY – The leader of the opposition in the Australian state of New South Wales, Luke Foley, resigned on Thursday after a journalist for state broadcaster ABC accused him of sexual assault.
ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper, who earlier worked as a reporter in the state parliament, released a formal statement on Thursday morning saying Foley – leader of the opposition Labor Party in the state – had put his hand inside her underwear during a Christmas party in 2016.
The abuse allegations, made public last month during a parliamentary debate by a Liberal lawmaker, who also accused Foley of drinking too much, led to a number of Labor deputies demanding the resignation of their leader, who stepped down five months before the state elections.
“The first thing I’d like to say is that the allegations against me today made public by the ABC are false,” Foley said in a press briefing on Thursday.
“However, 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, adding that he will continue as a member of the parliament.
ABC said in a statement that Raper did not want to report the case but decided to do so due to public pressure after the revelation in the parliament.
“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,” Raper had said in a statement, adding that on Sunday the leader had called her to apologize for the incident and attributed it to being drunk.
According to a report published by the Australian Human Rights Commission, around 85% of Australian women have been victims of sexual harassment at some point in their lives and at least 23% of women have been victims of an attempt or an act of rape or sexual assault in their lives.