Politics Opinion

Wren's Week: Alleged rape cover-up and Facebook ban should sink PM Morrison

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Things are going from bad to worse for the Morrison Government, which might escape serious repercussions once again (Screenshot via YouTube)

After another week of major scandals, the Morrison Government is now in damage control once again to escape serious consequences, writes John Wren.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape

IT’S NOT BEEN a good week for Australia’s ersatz Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

It started with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flaying him publicly for his underhand negotiations with her government on the repatriation of an Australian/New Zealand dual citizen ISIL bride and her children from Turkey.

The woman was born in NZ, taken to Australia with her parents at the age of six and has never returned to NZ. She is a product of Australia, our education systems and cultural and societal norms. She is an Australian, indistinguishable from millions of others, who entered Turkey on an Australian passport. She has no family, friends or social support in NZ.

Ardern claimed she had been having “good faith” negotiations with the Morrison regime and was of the understanding that Australia would take appropriate responsibility for its citizens. However, without warning, the Government stripped the woman of her Australian citizenship and dumped her metaphorically on NZ’s doorstep.

This was clearly a diplomatic underarm delivery and demonstrates just how untrustworthy the Morrison Government is. Especially if it acts this way with our closest ally and a major trading partner. It should be noted, however, that Arden must bear some of the blame. Given Morrison’s well-known perfidious track record, she probably should not have taken him at his word. He’s not known as the “liar from the Shire” for nothing.

Shortly after this debacle, it emerged that Morrison and his senior Ministers were at the heart of a cover-up of an alleged rape of a staffer by a party colleague in Senator Linda Reynolds’ offices. This is an appalling story of a young professional woman at the start of her career two years ago, being raped by a colleague while drunk. Fearing for her career and clearly under some pressure from the Party with an election looming, she chose not to pursue criminal redress.

As with many things, its not the crime that brings a culprit down, it’s the ensuing cover-up. The victim was assisted at the time by security staff and two days later discussed the event with Reynolds in the same office where the alleged assault took place.

The right thing to do would be to immediately seal off the crime scene, report it to police and let them do their work to investigate, gather forensic and other evidence and bring the perpetrator to justice. Politically, there may have been some short-term pain, but public pronouncements and being publicly seen to be doing the right thing would have more than compensated.

Instead, the corrupt Morrison regime embarked on an apparent cover-up. It ordered steam cleaning of the couch where the assault happened (destruction of evidence), it moved the victim to the offices of Michaelia Cash in Perth and it seems they may have moved the victim on to another role. When Senator Reynolds was asked if a reference and payout had been provided for the individual, her response was “I need to get legal advice on that”, which to most people indicates that she did, in fact, provide both. If she hadn’t, she could have held her head up high and simply said “no”.

Morrison has claimed throughout that he didn’t know. It has since emerged that his office most certainly did know. Text exchanges have emerged that prove it. The President of the Senate also knew. It is inconceivable that Morrison did not know about the events of that night. His office is playing the same plausible deniability cards it played during the sports rorts affair.

Ironically, the victim was spurred to reopen her complaint by the recent Australian of the Year ceremony, where Morrison himself presented the award to another young woman, Grace Tame, a survivor of childhood sexual assault at the hands of one of her teachers. The sight of Morrison presenting her with the award and commending her on her bravery was too much. Morrison’s hypocrisy on the issue needed to be exposed and so she did.

When confronted by the media pack, Morrison’s first instincts as always were to deflect and deny. He made a catastrophic statement that he had discussed the matter with his wife and decided to act “as a father with daughters” would. In other words, it seems he needed his wife to tell him that rape was a criminal act and should be treated as such. It also begs the question if he didn’t have daughters, what would he have done? As pressure mounted on him, he then seemed to try to muddy the waters on the rape claim and started to gaslight the victim’s partner.

The whole sordid story is not going to go away soon, but Morrison will likely get away with it again, as he has with countless other corrupt acts, lies, disinformation, bullying and a host of other duplicitous acts. He will keep a lid on it as best he can until Australia’s useless media pack moves on to the next big story.

And the next big story then duly hit. On Wednesday, the Government passed its media bargaining legislation, largely at the behest of the financially struggling Murdoch News Corp operation, that would force social media companies like Google and Facebook to pay for content posted by media organisations. Murdoch’s print media has been losing money for years. It blames social media for undercutting its sales. How this happens considering it uses paywalls to protect most of its content anyway is beyond me. However, Morrison, utterly dependent on Murdoch’s media support, went ahead with the legislation anyway.

Facebook reacted the next day by blocking all media companies from posting on Facebook in Australia. It blocked access to both local companies like The Age as well as international providers like the BBC. Our Facebook feeds are now nearly news free. Unfortunately for Facebook, they also took out many public information sites such as the Bureau of Meteorology and Peter MacCallum Institute’s cancer awareness sites, as well as a host of equally harmless community groups. It also took out the Facebook page of this publication. As a result, it’s been a PR disaster for both the Morrison regime and Facebook.

Morrison should not survive the alleged rape cover-up. His deplorable actions are beyond any sense of morality and justice. It should be the straw that broke the camel's back after many years of flagrant corruption. If he does survive, our democracy is dead — and you can largely thank our appalling media for that.

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