Australian prime minister stands by minister accused of rape

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Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media in Sydney, Monday, March 1, 2021. Morrison stood by an unnamed Cabinet minister against calls for him to step down from office over an allegation that he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday stood by an unidentified Cabinet minister against calls for him to step down over an allegation he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago.

The accusation has created a cloud over the 16 men in Morrison’s 22-minister Cabinet and is feeding complaints of a culture within Parliament that is toxic for women.

The allegation was contained in an anonymous letter sent to the prime minister’s office and to three female lawmakers last week.

The letter contained a statement from a complainant that detailed her allegation of a rape she said occurred in New South Wales state in 1988.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, reported the allegation to police before taking her own life in June at age 49.

Morrison said the Cabinet minister “vigorously and completely denied the allegations.”

Morrison said he forwarded the letter to police and discussed the allegation with the federal police commissioner. Morrison said he did not intend to take any further action.

“We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicized through the media is grounds for ... governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that,” Morrison said.