Luke Foley resigned as leader of the parliamentary Labor Party on Thursday evening following claims he put his hand down the underpants of an ABC journalist during a parliamentary staff Christmas party nearly two years ago.
Mr Foley read a statement in which he denied the allegations.
LUKE FOLEY’S STATEMENT
The first thing I would like to say is that the allegations against me today made public by the ABC are false.
I have retained Solicitors and Senior Counsel to advise on 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 is just not possible to do both.
Therefore I am resigning the leadership of the Labor Party effective today.
This will enable a new leader to give his or her full attention to the task of defeating the Liberal-National Coalition Government.
I will be remaining as the member for Auburn and returning to the backbench.
An ABC journalist says NSW Labor leader Luke Foley put his hands down her underpants during a parliamentary staff Christmas party nearly two years ago.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Ashleigh Raper said she wanted to "set the record straight" about an incident involving Mr Foley at the NSW Parliament Christmas party in Sydney's CBD in 2016.
Ms Raper said Mr Foley called her on Sunday to apologise, telling her: "I'm not a philanderer, I'm not a groper, I'm just a drunk idiot".
He told her he would resign as leader of the NSW Labor Party either on Monday or Wednesday.
However, he called back on Tuesday to backtrack, saying he won't be resigning based on legal advice.
In her statement she said the incident that had been the source of widespread speculation involved Mr Foley putting his hand down the back of her dress at a bar in Martin Place following the function involving politicians, their staff and journalists at Parliament House.
"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.
She 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 Liberal minister David Elliott raised it in NSW parliament.
STATEMENT BY THE 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.
Australian Associated Press