3 March 2021
I just watched Attorney-General Christian Porter out himself as the Cabinet Minister accused of rape. He was live on ABC News Channel 24 at 3pm (but 8 minutes delayed, so they played the newsflash of NSW Sports Minister resigning after his property dealings were referred to ICAC).
I had deduced that Porter was the minister, as there had been a 4 Corners about him in November and his birthday made him the exact age that the alleged victim said her rapist was. We knew what he would say, as the media said that he was not going to resign, so as a debater I was as interested in his rhetoric as its contents.
He started by saying he was very sorry for the family of the alleged rape victim for their loss. He said that he had heard rumours of the allegation since November but he was unaware what was alleged. He denies the allegation completely, but was concerned about the effect on his colleagues.
He was also concerned that the journalists were trying him by media and were not following due process. He said that they had flowed due process when a previous Opposition Leader was accused of sexual harassment, clearly implying that the media were giving him a worse time. (There was no mention that one was alleged sexual harassment, the other alleged rape and suicide).
He said that he, unlike the media, was following due process.He in his professional life had been a prosecutor and had always tried to stand up for the victims and protect them.
He is now working hard but may now be removed by an accusation. If he were to resign it would mean ‘no rule of law’ and that an unsubstantiated media accusation would be enough to force Ministers to resign, so he will not stand down and set a bad precedent.
(Presumably the alternative is that no one stands down until ‘proper process’ has them convicted, which will very convenient for sports rorts and other current government activities).
He is taking a 2 week break on his doctor’s orders, and his friends are standing by him.
He expanded on the story somewhat during the questioning. There were 4 people in the debating team, 3 men and one woman. They went to her room and she showed him how to iron a shirt as none of them had ever ironed a shirt. He may have told her that ‘she would make a good wife one day’. He may have gone to dinner but he absolutely denied that he demanded oral sex or raped her. It did not happen. He pleaded with the media to ‘imagine for a second that it is not true’. Their faces were not shown on TV, but it seems from their voices that they found this hard to imagine.
He had had no contact with that person since January 1988, for 33 years, so he could not remember details, but she was a ‘bright, happy person’.
He cannot explain the story and he cannot test the evidence, so he does not favour an inquiry as he will be ‘asked to disprove something that did not happen’. Others may decide to have an inquiry. He wonders at ‘conspiracy theories everywhere’.
He spoke to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, presumably 8 days ago, not yesterday, and believes that he has the Prime Minister’s support.
My bet is that there will be a delay, then an inquiry, and then he will resign to save the government from embarrassment, but not be charged with anything. I could be wrong. Certainly the ‘Me Too’ movement has changed the paradigm in the entertainment industry and now even in Australian politics. But we are still nowhere near the old standard when Barry O’Farrell resigned as NSW Premier when he did not remember receiving a bottle of wine from a dodgy donor, or the Dutch Cabinet all resigned recently over a situation like Robodebt.
If Porter limps along, he will be lead in the Liberals’ saddlebag for a while. The election is a year away, so many will forget, but some will not, and a negative impression of the government grows stronger. These impressions eventually coalesce onto a ’gut feeling’ that the government has to go and the government becomes doomed. Usually the Canberra bubble of both politicians and their journalists are the last to realise.