Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has sensationally called for an inquest into the death of a woman said to be the victim of an alleged historic rape by a sitting cabinet member.

Spinning a conspiracy theory worthy of House of Cards, Mr Turnbull told Radio National's Fran Kelly that he "has a question in my own mind" about whether the woman did in fact kill herself last year, saying the notion that she would have killed herself was "counter-intuitive" to him.

"We don't know for sure that she took her own life, we know for sure that she's dead. And there needs to be an inquest", Mr Turnbull said.

Questions.... Former PM Malcolm Turnbull.
Questions.... Former PM Malcolm Turnbull.


The claims come on the heels of reports in The Daily Telegraph that some within the Morrison government believe that Mr Turnbull has been actively working to amplify the claims of rape to destabilise the government and seek revenge for the leadership spill which saw him removed from power in 2018.

The current claims of rape against a sitting cabinet minister were first revealed by the ABC's Louise Milligan in a tweet last Friday evening, and have been the subject of much speculation ever since.

Scott Morrison has said the cabinet minister accused of historical rape denies the allegation "categorically".

Mr Turnbull's latest comments are likely to further muddy the waters around the case and add to calls for an inquest or inquiry that, no matter its findings, could be damaging to the government.

RAPE ALLEGATION SHOULD FOLLOW 'PROPER PROCESS'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the cabinet minister accused of a historical sex crime "vigorously and completely denied the allegations".

Mr Morrison said he spoke to the individual involved about the allegations last Wednesday night.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the minister in question denies the allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the minister in question denies the allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard


"I'm not going to go into the conversation," the Prime Minister said on Monday. "Did I raise it? Yes, I did. And he vigorously and completely denied the allegations. So that means there is a proper process now for it to follow.

"We can't have a system in this country where allegations are simply presented, and I'm not suggesting this in this case, but we can't have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicised through the media is grounds for, you know, governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that.

"I mean, we have a rule of law in this country and it's ­appropriate that these things were referred to the Federal Police."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the PM should consider standing the minister down. Picture: Annette Dew
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the PM should consider standing the minister down. Picture: Annette Dew


Mr Morrison's defence of his embattled cabinet minister, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman in 1988, comes amid calls from many in the Labor camp for the PM to stand the individual down.

On Sunday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Prime Minister must decide himself whether it's appropriate for the minister to stay in the cabinet.

Some senior sources within the Morrison government, meanwhile, claim the push to investigate the latest round of rape allegations against a sitting cabinet minister is being led by Malcolm Turnbull and co-ordinated with the ABC.

One government source says former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is behind the leaking of the allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
One government source says former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is behind the leaking of the allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi


One source said this was part of the former PM's efforts to destabilise the Morrison government and seek revenge against those ­responsible for the 2018 leadership spill.

On Friday, ABC journalist Louise Milligan reported that Mr Morrison notified federal police of a letter detailing the 1988 rape allegation against the cabinet member.

Two days later Mr Turnbull said he had received a letter from the now deceased victim in 2019 that "described a pretty horrific rape that she said had occurred at the hands of this person".

Mr Turnbull also called for "some form of inquest" into the woman's death.

The woman is understood to have taken her own life last year.

WOMEN NEED 'REAL CHANGE': PREMIER

The culture of "many institutions" needs to change through a renewed focus on the treatment of women in politics, according to Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Ms Berejiklian said she had been "heartened by the number of young people coming forward and speaking up" after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was raped by a colleague in a ministerial office in 2019.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she hopes the current discussion of sexual assault in politics will lead to change. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she hopes the current discussion of sexual assault in politics will lead to change. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard


"I hope this will create change," Ms Berejiklian said. "I think (for) too long we've allowed this type of activity, or this type of conversation, not to be aired as much as it should.

"And I'm hoping for real change.

"But I think, generally speaking, all of us have a responsibility, no matter what walk of life we're in … to really be attuned to that subconscious bias that exists that allows conversations to then escalate into disrespect, which then unfortunately results in violent behaviour."

The Premier said "all of us need to do more" to improve the treatment of women.

Anyone who may be feeling distressed can contact Lifeline on 131 114, SANE Helpline on 1800 18 72 63 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

Originally published as Rape allegation: Turnbull's startling claims over woman's death


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