Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has made a passionate plea for an independent inquiry into rape allegations against Christian Porter, saying many people, including some Liberal MPs, want his "head on a plate".
Mr Porter, who is Attorney-General, is on mental health leave this week and has strongly denied raping a woman when they were both teenagers in 1988.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is resisting calls from lawyers, women's advocates, human rights groups, Labor and crossbench MPs for an independent inquiry, saying there was "no alternative process" available to him.
He has backed Mr Porter's decision to stay put as first law officer of the land.
"Christian Porter may not want an independent inquiry but he has got one by default," Mr Joyce wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday.
"A demeaning, cathartic inquisition by the press and opposition."
An independent inquiry would offer a more "dignified" alternative otherwise the allegations could "hang like a fog" over Mr Porter's "remarkable career", the New England MP said.
"Christian knows many in the opposition and some on his own side don't want the truth unless it comes with his head on a plate. They just want his scalp," he said.
"They will ultimately get what they want unless he can refer them to a deliberation on the allegation, beyond reasonable questions of efficacy."
Mr Joyce said he did not want Mr Porter to "end up sitting at the back of the chamber under the exit sign where my colleagues have kindly placed me".
He linked his stance on the matter to his own experiences – having been the subject of sexual harassment allegations in 2018, which contributed to his resignation as deputy prime minister.
He has vehemently denied the allegations.
'The prime minister needs to take action'
Labor senator Katy Gallagher criticised Scott Morrison and Christian Porter on Saturday for not reading the dossier raising the serious rape allegations.
"And yet, between the two of them, they've decided there's no issue here," she said.
The only way for Mr Porter to clear his name was to have an independent process, she said.
"This will not go away. The prime minister needs to take action".
Mr Morrison has said he would welcome an inquest into the death of the woman at the centre of historical rape allegations against Mr Porter.
The South Australian coroner is weighing up whether to launch an inquest into her death in June 2020.
NSW Police detectives met with the woman in Sydney in February last year and had contact with her on at least five occasions over the next three months.
However, on June 23 she indicated in an email to NSW police she did not wish to proceed with the complaint and two days later SA police advised them she had died.
NSW police are no longer investigating.
Meanwhile, the prime minister and Labor leader Anthony Albanese have agreed to a review of workplace culture at Parliament House to be led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
Ms Jenkins has asked for staff members and politicians to provide their first-hand experiences, to be treated with sensitivity and confidentiality, with trauma support available.
She will provide an interim report mid-year and final recommendations in November.
The government has been under intense pressure for weeks after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by a colleague at Parliament House.
Ms Higgins is also in a legal stoush with her former employer, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who has apologised for calling her a "lying cow".
The minister said her words were in response to being criticised for not offering enough support to Ms Higgins, and were not related to the alleged rape.
After lawyers fired off a letter threatening to sue Senator Reynolds, she issued a fresh statement apologising for the remarks.
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