The ACT Greens have expressed their disappointment and dismay that their partner in government has been critical of how they handled sexual misconduct allegations against former MLA Johnathan Davis.
ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury and the remaining Greens MLAs fronted media on Monday (13 November) to clarify the timeline around the complaint by a then-17-year-old boy about his concerns following a consensual relationship with Mr Davis and release the details of the party’s internal investigation.
Relations appear strained between the ACT Greens and ACT Labor after the Labor caucus stated they were frustrated with the process and still had many unanswered questions.
Mr Rattenbury said he was “dismayed” by comments from Acting Chief Minister Yvette Berry, calling them “highly inappropriate”.
“Every single member of Labor caucus has my telephone number and my email address – not one of them contacted me across the course of the weekend, or Friday, to ask a single question,” he said.
“I think one needs to look at the Labor Party statement … and question the Labor Party’s integrity on this matter.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti added she was also disappointed with Labor’s response, accusing the party of politicising the issue.
“This has been devastating for us … for the whole organisation,” she said.
“Absolutely, it has impacts on how we move forward in a shared government.”
ACT Labor chose not to comment further at this time.
While no evidence has been found or provided at this time that Mr Davis was involved with underage people, Mr Rattenbury conceded further information could come to light.
Only one person has spoken with the party about his experience with Mr Davis, and no other person had come forward saying they had sexual interactions with Mr Davis when they were underage.
“But other people have raised concerns that they believe that did occur,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“The concerns were raised by people who were not personally involved but who stood strongly by the information they were presenting.
“If that did occur, it is an extremely serious matter.”
Mr Rattenbury said his office had also been learning about other potential allegations in the media.
“We don’t necessarily know all of the circumstances … There may be information we do not have that may come to light,” he said.
“At this stage, we do not have any confirmation of [a] 15-year-old [potential complainant].
“If that person is out there, and they want to go forward to ACT Policing or other support services, we would encourage them to do so.”
It has been reported Mr Davis had allegedly asked the 17-year-old complainant for intimate pictures, which is illegal.
Mr Rattenbury said no evidence of this had been found but acknowledged that was one reason the party decided to report the matter to police.
“[Mr Davis] has indicated to me that he does not believe he has done anything illegal,” Mr Rattenbury said.
Once Mr Rattenbury had been told about the complainant on Monday, 6 November, an internal investigation was commenced with a reporting deadline of Friday, 10 November.
A senior staffer who undertook the internal investigation did hear “repeated concerns” about Mr Davis’s engagement with young people, including the “possibility” he had been sexually active with a person under the age of 16.
Mr Rattenbury defended his decision not to publicise any information about the complaint until his staff had gathered more information.
“It is right and appropriate that we first seek to understand the situation and inquire into the veracity of the information and have contact with the person who is accused,” he said.
“That takes time, and we stand by the approach.”
It’s now been revealed Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson was the first to hear about the allegations but held off on telling her party leader until a week later.
Mr Rattenbury stood by his minister’s decision, given the information initially could have been considered a “rumour”.
“We work in an area where rumours circulate frequently … and we needed to have some degree of confidence that we were simply not acting on what could potentially be an untrue rumour,” he said.
“I fully support Minister Davidson’s approach. She took the report seriously, she treated it with the respect and care that it deserved, she worked to identify additional information and she came to me as soon as she considered it appropriate.”
Ms Davidson also defended her decision not to inform Mr Rattenbury until she had more information.
“When it first came to my attention, I was receiving information a few steps removed from the 17-year-old,” she said.
“We needed to gather some more information in order to take those steps.”
It’s a move that has left Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee stunned.
“If a minister in this place had heard reports of allegations this serious, it is unforgivable that they did not act, that they did not undertake it on themselves to have it referred to, or reviewed, immediately,” she said.
“There’s no doubt [an independent investigation] should be done as a matter of priority.”
If this reporting has caused you concern, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. You can report a crime or request police assistance on 131 444.
QLife Australia provides support for the LGBTIQA+ community on 1800 184 527.