NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley Quits, Then Threatens To Sue An ABC Journalist Over Sexual Harassment Claims

"I can't fight to clear my name and fight an election at the same time."

Luke Foley has stepped down as NSW Opposition leader in the wake of harassment allegations levelled at him by an ABC journalist today – but has called the allegations “false” and says he will begin defamation proceedings.

Reading a brief statement to the press in Sydney on Thursday afternoon, Foley said:

“The first thing I’d like to say is that the allegations against me today made public by the ABC are false. I’ve retained solicitors and senior counsel to advise of the immediate commencement of defamation proceedings in the federal court of Australia.

“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 am resigning the leadership of the Labor Party effective today. This will enable the new leader to give his her her full attention to the task of defeating the Liberal National government.

“I’ll be remaining as the member for Auburn and returning to the backbench.”

Foley did not take questions from the press.

Foley’s resignation comes several hours after the ABC released a statement by journalist Ashleigh Raper containing details of the alleged incident.

The next NSW state election is scheduled for March 23, 2019. NSW Labor has not yet announced who will take Foley’s place as leader.

Saxon Mullins Is My New Hero, And Her 4 Corners Episode Was So Powerful It Could Change Sexual Consent Laws

Thanks to the bravery of survivor Saxon Mullins, serious questions are being raised about what consent really means in the NSW legal system.

There’s a lot to be horrified by in last night’s incredible 4 Corners.

The ABC’s in-depth current affairs program took a close look at one of NSW’s most high-profile rape cases after a year-long investigation: the story of how in 2013, an 18-year-old girl from the Central Coast who’d never had sex ended her first ever night out in Sydney’s Kings Cross having allegedly non-consensual anal sex in an alley with a guy who’d promised to take her to the club’s VIP room.

“You know, there wasn’t any request – it was a demand … From someone I had never met before. In a dark alleyway. Alone. And I was scared,” she said on the program.

The guy, Luke Lazarus, who is the son of the nightclub’s then owner, was initially convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to five years in prison – but he served less than a year, and was released and his conviction changed to not guilty after a judge determined that the teenager didn’t consent, but how was he supposed to know that?

The thing is, you are supposed to know. You’re supposed to be 100% sure that the person you’re having sex with really, really wants to be having sex with you. This is pretty basic stuff. It’s called enthusiastic consent.

Because if the person is only so-so about the idea of sex with you, why would you want to have sex with them?

However, the law isn’t exactly clear on this, and that benefited Lazarus – a guy who, if we’re to believe his side of the story, innocently believed a drunk 18-year-old virgin was totally cool with having anal sex on her hands and knees in a gravel-strewn alleyway behind a nightclub at 4am with a guy she just met five minutes earlier.

That’s the best possible interpretation of his actions and mindset.

“Whether or not she consented is but one matter. Whether or not the accused knew that she was not consenting is another matter,” the judge in the second trial said.

(That judge was found to have erred in her judgment in a subsequent appeal, but Lazarus was not put through a third trial as it wouldn’t have been “fair” to him. Right.)

Last night’s program saw the girl, whose identity was of course protected during the years of legal proceedings, shed her protective anonymity in order to go on Four Corners, tell her story and advocate for enthusiastic consent.

Her name is Saxon Mullins, and she’s my new hero.

This morning saw a stunningly compassionate response to the report coming from the NSW attorney-general, who announced that he would be asking the Law Reform Commission to review the way the question of consent is approached and interpreted in sexual assault trials.

“[Mullins was] humiliated in an alleyway at the age of 18, she’s had to tell her traumatic story in court, she’s had to face two trials, two appeals, and still, no final outcome,” Mark Speakman said this morning.

“What this shows is that there’s a real question about whether our law in New South Wales is clear enough, is certain enough, is fair enough.”

The NSW government welcomes input from the public – so if you have something to say about the review and reform, including any experiences of your own, you can make a submission to the review before June 29 here.

It’s not likely that the platonic ideal of enthusiastic consent – which boils down to “if it’s not a ‘F**k yes’, it’s a no”, and asks people to get verbal confirmation from any partner(s) that they’re definitely keen to have sex – will be enshrined in law.

However, reform might mean that the absence of affirmative consent means more in legal proceedings: that “they didn’t say no” isn’t as accessible a defence, that non-verbal fear or shock responses like freezing up or going limp are better taken into account, and that people in Lazarus’ position won’t be able to fall back on “How was I supposed to know she wasn’t into it?”

Because you are supposed to know whether the person you’re having sex with really wants to have sex – and what’s more, you’re supposed to care. So you check, and proceed accordingly. If you can’t manage that going forward, you don’t deserve to have sex with anyone at all.

If this story raises any issues for you, or you just need to talk to someone, you can call the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence helpline on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), Mensline on 1800 600 636, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. They’re all free and confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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