NSW Labor leader Luke Foley 'rested his hand on my buttocks' an ABC journalist says, then reneged on a pledge to resign

ScreenshotNSW Labour leader Luke Foley.

The ABC journalist at the centre of accusations that NSW opposition leader Luke Foley groped her following a 2016 Christmas party at Parliament house has confirmed the incident occurred, issuing a statement outlining what happened on the night in question.

Ashleigh Raper, who was covering state politics at the time, says she wanted to set the record straight after the matter was raised in both the NSW and federal parliaments “despite my expressed wish to neither comment nor complain, and the likelihood of ongoing media and political interest”.

Raper said she never wanted the issue to become public or lodge a complaint because she feared for her job, her reputation and the negative impact it would have on her and her young family.

“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,” she said.

On the November evening in a bar in Sydney’s Martin Place, Raper says “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.”

Foley then left the bar.

Raper has recently spoken to the Labor leader about what occurred that night and he expressed regret and said he would resign this week on either Monday or Wednesday.

He called again on Melbourne Cup day and said he wouldn’t resign following legal advice.

The incident was witnessed by the Herald’s former state political editor, who now works for the ABC, and Raper asked him to keep the incident confidential.

The ABC says it became aware of the matter in April this year following enquiries from a journalist at another newspaper.

“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,” the broadcaster said.

“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 organisation says that in February 2018, she asked to be reassigned from State Parliament to general reporting shifts for reasons unrelated to the incident.

Raper says three things influenced her decision to go public on the matter – a wish to stop women being harassed as the go about their professional and social lives, and that it was then used “for the sake of political point scoring” in parliament; and she wants to get on with her life.

Foley has yet to comment, and previously denied that anything happened, but earlier today told the ABC that he “dealt with the matter” last week.

Here is 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.

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