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ABC reporter details claims against NSW Labor leader

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UPDATED | Luke Foley has resigned as NSW Labor leader after an ABC journalist accused him of putting his hand down her underpants at a Christmas party in 2016.

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Foley says the accusations are false but announced today he will step down while he considers legal action.

“I’ve retained solicitors and senior counsel to advise on the immediate commencement of defamation proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia,” he said in a brief statement to media.

“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.

“Therefore, I’m resigning the leadership of the Labor Party effective today.”

Foley said he will stay on as the member for Auburn and return to the backbench.

The announcement came several hours after ABC reporter Ashleigh Raper detailed allegations against the former opposition leader, claiming he put his hand through the back of her dress and inside her underpants.

Raper wanted to “set the record straight” about the incident at a bar in Sydney’s CBD after it was raised in parliament by Liberal minister David Elliott.

In a statement issued by the ABC today, Raper discussed for the first time the alleged incident involved Foley at a Christmas party in 2016.

“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,” she said.

The ABC said Raper had not wanted to talk publicly about the incident.

“The ABC considers it extremely unfortunate that media and public pressure has been applied to Ms Raper during these past months and caused her to speak publicly on an issue she did not wish to pursue or to comment on,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

Raper said the incident was witnessed by another journalist, but she did not make a complaint for a number of reasons – including for fear of losing her job and the negative impact it would have on her family.

But the matter resurfaced in October when Elliott raised it in NSW parliament.

“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,” Raper said in today’s statement.

“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.”

She said Foley had called her this week to apologise and say he would resign as Labor leader.

He later told her that he had decided against quitting after receiving legal advice.

In a conversation Raper said occurred on Sunday, Foley had apologised and said he was  “full of remorse for his behaviour towards me”.

“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).”

However, he called her on Tuesday to let her know that he had decided against quitting.

“He informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader. He indicated he intended to follow that advice.”

ASHLEIGH RAPER’S FULL STATEMENT

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.

– with AAP

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