The Morrison Government has further expressed its contempt for women by promoting disgraced Minister Christian Porter, writes Andrew P Street.
* CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse
Two things happened recently regarding our current Minister for Science and Innovation and former Attorney-General, Christian Porter.
One was that the Federal Court agreed to permanently remove 27 pages from the public record of the ABC’s submitted defence regarding the defamation case levelled against them by Porter after an article was published about an unnamed senior government figure having been accused of committing a rape in his teens.
The second thing, coming very close on the heels of the first thing, was that Prime Minister Scott Morrison made Porter the acting Leader of the House of Representatives, subbing for Defence Minister Peter Dutton who has been forced to quarantine following a COVID-19 scare — a job which, one would assume, would have normally gone to Deputy Leader of the House David Gillespie had the PM not wanted to make a point.
As messages to the public go, it couldn’t be more clear: women of Australia, the PM was saying, in the Morrison Government, men with unresolved rape allegations against them not only don’t get punished, they get promoted.
The removal of the 27 pages from the public record probably saved the ABC from Porter reopening his case against them, but that’s small comfort for anyone interested in what actually happened with the former AG — as well as a cruel slap in the face of the witnesses who came forward.
The pages will, reportedly, be made available to the South Australian coroner's court as they ponder whether an inquest should be held regarding the death of Porter’s alleged victim, “Kate”, but the likelihood of any conclusion being released before the election – or, for that matter, at all – seems low.
And let’s be honest, it’s not a shock. After all, we are now in the sixth month since the PM announced an investigation into who in his office knew about another alleged rape, that of Brittany Higgins in Parliament House by a fellow staffer in the Morrison Government. Not, you might note, an investigation into the sexual assault itself, or into the alleged perpetrator of said assault, but what the PM knew and when he knew it.
You’d think that’s not an especially complex question and that it might be one which Scott could ask and answer himself without the need for investigator Phil Gaetjens to pop it to him. However, at this point, there’s no indication that he’s been asked. For that matter, there’s been no suggestion that anyone has been interviewed, investigated or even asked if, you know, they’d fancy a bit of a chat about stuff.
And there’s a good reason for this: the PM could potentially face investigation over why he failed to report a rape if, say, it became clear that he obviously knew what happened because everyone in his entire staff and government spent two years gently pussyfooting around the matter out of respect for his terrifically sensitive feelings.
But that’s because, as is so often the case with the Morrison Government, everyone’s engaged in a fun game of Pass The Buck.
First, Gaetjens told Senate Estimates that he’d been told to put the investigation on hold by the Australian Federal Police — a claim which AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said was actually Gaetjens’ decision and not the AFP’s (although he respected it).
Then on Wednesday 28 June, both Kershaw and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews refused to discuss the matter last month on the grounds that the allegations are before the A.C.T.’s Department of Public Prosecutions and so they can’t possibly comment. This was news to the surprised-sounding DPP who told The Guardian they’d forwarded their advice to the AFP at the end of June and were still waiting for a response.
But Kangaroo Court’s Shane Dowling adds the note that Kershaw issued advice to all MPs (supposedly drafted by the Prime Minister’s Office) that similar future allegations must be reported to the police rather than the media. Which is a fun, backhanded way of telling Higgins that she did her rape wrong, after waiting for the Government to act for two fruitless years.
And there are those who might currently be wondering how the actual hell a man with unresolved rape allegations against him is serving in our government — but this, after all, is a government whose Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce couldn’t even be exonerated by his own Party in an internal sexual harassment investigation.
And, showing the same sort of contempt for women as the Morrison Liberals, said investigation was conducted by Nationals senate hopeful Ross Cadell, a man whose former wife had an AVO against him in 2014 and, therefore, might not have been the ideal candidate to look into whether some woman was telling the truth about his good mate, Barn.
And that’s ignoring the allegations levelled against fellow Morrison Government MPs like Alan Tudge, George Christensen and Andrew Laming. And all of them, Porter included, strenuously deny the allegations.
In other words, the Morrison Government is determined to ignore the claims of Brittany Higgins just like they’ve done with the claims against Christian Porter and other MPs and hope it all goes away.
And you know what? It probably will.
If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Andrew P Street is an Adelaide-based, Sydney-built journalist, author, editor and broadcaster and an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewPStreet.
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