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‘I want it to stop’: ABC journalist goes public with Luke Foley allegations

Related Story: NSW Opposition Leader accused of harassing ABC journalist after 'a little too much to drink' Related Story: Luke Foley rejects government calls to step aside over 'harassment' allegations

An ABC journalist has confirmed an incident involving NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley at a Christmas party in 2016.

Key points:

  • Ashleigh Raper said she never intended to make the statement or complaint
  • She said: "A woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made."
  • Mr Foley has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing

In a statement, reporter Ashleigh Raper said Mr Foley placed his hand down the back of her dress and inside her underpants.

Ms Raper said she did not wish to make a complaint, but was forced to make a statement after the incident was raised under parliamentary privilege in both Sydney and Canberra.

A separate statement from the ABC said the corporation considered it extremely unfortunate that media and public pressure had been applied to Ms Raper and caused her to speak publicly on an issue she did not wish to pursue or to comment on.

A female journalist in front of a city horizon

Mr Foley has previously described the claims as "lies" and challenged his opponents to repeat the claims outside Parliament.

Ms Raper said there were three things she wanted from her decision to release a 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," she said.

"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."

Foley promised to resign

Ms Raper said Mr Foley called her last Sunday and apologised, saying he was remorseful and had wanted to talk about the matter many times over the past two years.

She said he told her that while he had been drunk on the night and couldn't remember all of the details, he knew he had done something to offend her.

Ms Raper said Mr Foley told her: "I'm not a philanderer, I'm not a groper, I'm just a drunk idiot."

She said Mr Foley told her he would resign either Monday this week or Wednesday, but could not do so on Tuesday as he would be accused of "burying the story" on Melbourne Cup Day.

Ms Raper said Mr Foley called her again on Tuesday and said he had been given legal advice to not resign, and intended to follow it.

As recently as this morning, Mr Foley insisted on ABC Radio Sydney he was confident he would be Opposition Leader at the time of next year's election.

"Yes, and premier beyond it," Mr Foley said.

He said he dealt with the allegations "comprehensively" during a press conference last month.

Sean Nicholls

"There was a misuse of parliamentary privilege here by the Liberals," Mr Foley said.

"I'm not going to dwell on it."

'I completely froze': Raper

Ms Raper said the incident was witnessed by fellow political journalist Sean Nicholls.

"I completely froze," she said.

Ms Raper requested Mr Nicholls keep the matter in the strictest confidence, which he did.

Her decision not to make a complaint was partially due to the risk of negative publicity.

"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," Ms Raper said in her statement.

She said she also feared the impact of negativity on her personally and on her young family.

"This impact is now being felt profoundly."

'He can't survive': colleagues

Senior Labor MPs have told the ABC they are "shocked and appalled" by Ms Raper's account and say there are "serious questions" over Mr Foley's leadership.

"He can't survive," said one.

But the MP also suggested Mr Foley "will not go easily", suggesting "it's not his track record to not put up a fight".

One female Labor MP said she cried when she read Ms Raper's statement.

"When I read that, my heart dropped and it made my skin crawl," she said.

Meanwhile, news is only slowly filtering through to other MPs on Macquarie Street.

Upper House Christian Democrat MP Paul Greene had not heard the news when he entered parliament, but after being read the statement said he was "shocked" and said "the allegations need to go through proper processes".

He said the issue was extremely serious.

"We are talking about someone who could be the future premier of this state," Mr Green said.

Mr Elliot's office said he would not be commenting.

Statement from 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.

Statement from ABC:

In response to media reports and comments made in the NSW and federal parliaments about an incident in November 2016 involving an ABC journalist and the NSW Leader of the Opposition, Mr Luke Foley, the ABC makes the following statement.

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.

Ms Raper has today decided to issue a personal statement, which can be read below.

This is the only comment on this matter she and the ABC wish to make.

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.

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