Greg Hunt and Paul Fletcher were at the 1988 debating competition attended by the attorney general who has strenuously denied wrongdoing

Australian politicsExclusive: Greg Hunt and Paul Fletcher were at the 1988 debating competition attended by the attorney general who has strenuously denied wrongdoing
Two cabinet ministers attended the 1988 university debating competition at which a woman has alleged she was sexually assaulted by Christian Porter, although members of the Morrison government insist they had no ongoing association with her.
Guardian Australia can reveal that the health minister, Greg Hunt, and communications minister, Paul Fletcher, attended the tournament two of the numerous alumni of the tightknit world of university debating that graduated to high-profile careers in politics and law, including the attorney general who has strenuously denied wrongdoing.
Despite growing calls from across the political spectrum and the womans friends for an independent inquiry into the alleged sexual assault, which Porter denies, on Friday Scott Morrison remained opposed to such a probe.
But after the intervention of the womans family in favour of any inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death, the prime minister said he would welcome a coronial inquiry in South Australia if the coroner opted for one.
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Guardian Australia has established that in 2019 the woman contacted her teammates from the Australian schools debating team, revealing her account that Porter, then aged 17, had sexually assaulted her in January 1988.
The incident allegedly occurred at the University of Sydney while Porter and the rest of the school team including the Labor MP Daniel Mulino attended the World University Debating Championships.
In an emotional press conference on Wednesday at which he categorically denied the sexual assault, Porter recalled scant details of the tournament, including a formal dinner and a second event featuring large bowls of prawns.
Asked about details from the womans written statement, Porter accepted that they may well have gone to the Hard Rock Cafe, that it sounds about right that they went out dancing, and that it was not impossible that he had said she would make a good wife as she ironed a shirt.
Hunt, the minister for health and aged care, attended the tournament as a member of the University of Melbourne team.
Hunts spokesperson said to the best of his knowledge, he had never met the woman nor is it a name that he recognises.
He is also not aware of having met Mr Porter until he was a member of parliament.
He also notes that as he is considerably older than Mr Porter (five years), they debated in different periods. But as always when there are 100s of people at events he is unable to know all those who attended.
Guardian Australia understands that Fletcher a World University Debating Championships grand-finalist in 1986 attended the tournament in 1988 as an adjudicator. A spokesman for Fletcher declined to comment.
Guardian Australia has obtained the individual speaker results from the 1988 tournament, showing Hunt ranked 77th of the 180 competitors.
Porter and the woman who would accuse him of rape more than 30 years later were both tied at 128th place, unable to be separated on 681 points each across nine rounds of debates.
Porters participation in the world debating tournament made him the toast of Hale, his wealthy Anglican school in Perth.
Archived yearbooks show he was awarded the school honours in his senior year, 1987, for his debating achievements, which were described as truly outstanding.
In 1987, [Porter] … was again selected in the Australian team, to compete in the 1988 World Intervarsity competition (involving Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale Universities among 157 competing teams) this time as Captain, Hales 1987 yearbook says.
To cap off his achievements Christian was twice captain of the winning Inter House debating team at Hale as well as having been selected to make several public speeches at various political meetings. Christians record of achievement is truly outstanding. He is indeed worthy of honours and the school congratulates him.
They werent the only honours the school bestowed on him. Porter was a school prefect, the captain of his house, and a budding actor, whose performances were praised by the school at the time as showing great ability and maturity.
Robert Crocker, an Adelaide-based academic and writer who was a work colleague and friend of the now deceased woman for many years, told Guardian Australia that she told him about the alleged rape in February 2019, which is earlier than many of her friends in debating circles.
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Crocker said he believed that the woman told him in a subsequent conversation that shed had dinner in the years after the alleged assault with the attorney general in Perth.
I do remember that she mentioned a [subsequent] social event a dinner, Crocker said. She did definitely mention some dinner. Crocker said he spoke to her several times in 2019 and then once more in 2020, before her death.
In a statement recording her recollections of the events of 1988 and her subsequent contacts with Porter a statement circulated to Morrison and other parliamentarians and reported by Guardian Australia on Monday the now deceased woman said she had dinner with Porter in Perth in 1994.
A close friend of the now deceased woman, who accompanied her to make a statement to the New South Wales police in 2020, told Guardian Australia Porter had dined with her friend after 1988.
A spokesman for Porter said it was not impossible that he had done so but the attorney general does not recollect any specific contact since 1988.
On Friday, the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, was also asked if he had any ongoing association with the woman, after a tweet in 2010 congratulating her after the launch of her book.
I understand that I had met her in 2010 at a book launch, Birmingham told reporters.
I remember the book launch. I dont remember any particular conversations at the time, and Im not aware of any subsequent engagement of meeting or otherwise with her.
Im only aware of that by virtue of a tweet where I congratulated her for the work that she had done at that book launch.
While Morrison government ministers fielded queries about the woman, who took her own life in June 2020, the leadership has stood against what it calls trial by media, while refusing to call an independent inquiry to make findings about what occurred.
NSW police have said there is insufficient admissible evidence to continue their investigation, but the South Australian coroner has directed police in that state, where the woman died, to conduct further investigations before he decides whether to hold an inquest.
Morrison said his earlier comments opposing a probe were referring to an inquiry that I was being asked to put in place.
The issue as to whether there is a coronial inquiry in South Australia is entirely a matter for the South Australian coroner, he told reporters in Sydney.
And if they chose to go ahead with that, of course, I would welcome that.
But it would be highly inappropriate for me as prime minister, or any other politician, to interfere or intervene in a decision that a coroner should properly make about those issues.
Morrison said a coronial inquiry would be into the rather terrible events with the death by suicide of the woman at the centre of this.
And if the coroner sought that, then I have no doubt that the attorney general would cooperate with any coronial process.
The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, said Porters circumstance requires a response, a response that is something other than you should unsee it and unhear it.
And the fact that questions will continue to be asked is one of the reasons why there should be an inquiry, because the person involved holds the position of attorney general and first law officer of the land.
Hes a cabinet minister. And Scott Morrison needs to assure himself but also the Australian people that hes a fit and proper person to hold that role.
On Thursday, the former Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop said the events in federal politics of the past few weeks made her feel very empty as an important opportunity for Canberra to reinvent itself was lost.
If Canberra is where the laws are made, surely Parliament House should be the model workplace and clearly it is not, she reportedly said.
If we dont change as a result of the last few weeks then what will it take?