Today, the Cabinet Minister at the centre of allegations of a heinous historical rape, spoke up. He is Attorney-General Christian Porter. The chief law officer in the land.
*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape
Today is also the day Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame spoke at the National Press Club.
This is significant, not only because she addressed the nation in a week when sexual violence against women cast its huge shadow over the top echelons of government, but because this is also the day in which the alleged “historical” Cabinet rapist gave his media conference “outing” himself.
Why did Porter – already exonerated by the PM – choose today of all days to emerge from lurking in the shadows? It seems likely that the alleged rapist and the protector of the alleged rapist – Porter and Morrison, respectively – feared the fallout from the brave Ms Tame’s words.
This is because words are powerful. Words resonate. And this is why women who have suffered abuse and violence are so often silenced.
Tame has spoken eloquently about her own experience of being silenced while the perpetrator of the crimes against her was able to speak freely and publicly.
In Porter’s case, many had already shared pertinent details that pointed to him as the Cabinet Minister at the centre of the allegations well ahead of today’s media conference. Independent Australia also emailed every member of the Morrison Cabinet and asked them to do the right thing and reveal whether they were the alleged rapist, including the Prime Minister, if only to put an end to the suspicion over their co-workers. Not one replied to our request.
To summarise, someone within the Morrison Government was accused of a horrific crime. That person’s identity was protected by the Government for around a week. As the victim is now dead (believed to have taken her own life), the NSW Police closed the investigation. The Prime Minister announced that he had spoken to the alleged perpetrator, who categorically denied being a rapist and was thus satisfied of his innocence. Case closed.
In what universe is someone accused of a crime exculpated without an investigation or trial simply because they claim innocence? In what universe is a public figure, one who holds one of the most powerful positions in the land, allowed to continue on as though nothing ever happened?
Senator Hanson-Young (who is donating the money to two women’s charities) described the judgement as a “victory for every woman who has been kept silent.”
Prior to Porter’s media conference, Hanson-Young also said that there were two people at the centre of these rape allegations and that the PM had
“…heard [Porter’s] side of the story, but has told us all that he hasn’t bothered to read the words of the woman herself.”
And therein lies the problem. Since the victim is now deceased, the police investigation (which has been used by Morrison as the reason for his inaction) was concluded along with her death.
It is believed that the woman took her own life, but former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cast doubt on even this largely-held claim, indicating there were “questions in my own mind” over how she died.
Christian Porter fronted the media today after a week in hiding (according to his estimate, but only five days according to the PM’s version of events).
His statement and answers to media questions were teary and his voice quavered often, leading many in the media to not only accept his version of events at face value but to portray the Attorney-General as the victim in this scenario.
And Porter may well be both shattered and innocent of the accusations against him. We are certainly not speculating as to his guilt or innocence. However, nor should anyone else, based only on his words, which have been given power by his position, by the Prime Minister’s public support and by a willing mainstream media.
All we really know after Porter admitted that he is the person against whom the allegations were made, is that he vehemently denies all the claims and that the PM has accepted his version of events.
We also know that it will be business as usual for the Morrison Government after the Attorney-General takes a couple of weeks off for his mental health. We know this because Porter also categorically refused to step down or stand aside from his position because “then anyone’s career could be destroyed”, following any wild allegations the media or anyone’s enemies could drum up.
Possibly. But how do we know that these are wild allegations? Why can’t he step aside and allow an independent inquiry to determine their veracity and prove his innocence?
Even footballers are sidelined when they are accused of a serious crime.
Then there’s the fact that Porter has Morrison’s support — at least, so far.
As Hanson-Young said today:
Who can trust him? [Morrison] admitted … despite being given the woman’s own statement of this alleged horrible rape, he didn’t bother to read it. He hasn’t even bothered ... to show respect to the woman who is now deceased…
This is incredibly untenable — such a senior minister to stay there while the issue remains unresolved. Someone who is alleged to have raped a 16-year-old sitting at his Cabinet table.
Then there’s the matter of Porter’s story itself. He says he doesn’t know the details of the allegations. And Morrison says he didn’t actually read them. It is a little difficult to believe that the chief law officer in the land didn’t bother to read such serious allegations against him.
Porter’s recollection of the time in which he and the alleged victim were together was also very hazy, which is understandable since it was 33 years ago. However, he said he hadn’t been in her room and then he remembered that he had in fact been there, to watch her give an ironing lesson, with his friends.
He remembers going out to dinner, but not a specific meal which the victim outlined in her statement.
He says the first he heard about the allegations was on Wednesday. But the PM said it was Friday.
And of course, there is the matter of the security risk this matter poses as long as it remains unresolved. We only have Porter's word that there is no evidence of the alleged crime. If any evidence does exist, then it can be used to compromise Australia’s chief law officer.
How can we know the answer to these and the myriad of questions raised by this alleged horrendous crime without a proper independent inquiry?
Porter did manage to let slip that he would be looking at all those online reports that may have sullied his reputation, with his defamation lawyer by his side. Not to be intimidating, you understand, just as a precaution. In case anyone may be thinking of coming forward with more information, perhaps?
While complaining that this heinous crime had been politicised, Porter threw in a prior rape allegation concerning former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, as a parting shot. Not a political one, of course. “I know and understand what he went through”, said Porter, before bemoaning that Shorten, unlike his victimised self, had been given the benefit of the doubt.
The difference, of course, which Porter neglected to mention, is that unlike in Porter's case, a police investigation was held into that matter and it was found that there was no case to be answered by Shorten.
There has been no such inquiry in Porter’s case. And the Prime Minister has not even alluded to a possible investigation.
The man at the centre of this alleged rape, Attorney-General Christian Porter, holds one of the most powerful positions in the country. He has spoken and we have all heard his words. In the process, the words of the other person at the centre of this heinous crime, a woman, has been silenced.
We must not move on until this woman's words are heard.
If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
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