Note: This story discusses sexual assault and suicide.
Friends of the now-deceased woman who accused a current cabinet minister of raping her in 1988 have urged Scott Morrison to hold an independent inquiry, ABC’s Four Corners reports, with a friend who was with the woman on the night of the alleged rape offering to make a police statement. Several have also paid tribute to the “smart”, “forthright”, and “extraordinary” woman at Guardian Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian ($).
The news comes after Morrison said the minister “vigorously rejected” the allegations, while Guardian Australia reports the prime minister was aware of “rumours” of the alleged assault earlier this year but said he had not felt the need to investigate further and was only briefed on last week’s 31-page dossier of allegations. He yesterday declined to launch an independent inquiry, declaring it is up to police to “determine the veracity of any allegations of this nature”.
As the woman’s lawyer Michael Bradley explained in Crikey yesterday, while it is a legal possibility for “a criminal rape prosecution to proceed despite the alleged victim having died” it realistically will not happen because “the evidentiary burden on the prosecution and the legal protections afforded the alleged perpetrator cannot be bridged.”
Bradley, along with other media voices such as Nine’s Peter Hartcher, have called for an inquiry similar to the High Court’s response to allegations against Justice Dyson Heydon. Lawyers have explained to The Sydney Morning Herald that an independent, confidential inquiry would be possible through contemporaneous notes or statements from people to whom she disclosed the allegations, and could be conducted in a way that protected the man’s right to a presumption of innocence.
Elsewhere, the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young had earlier accused Morrison of a “deafening” silence and left open the possibility of identifying the accused under parliamentary privilege.
PS: With sexual assault making daily headlines for the third week straight, consider checking out ABC Everyday’s guide to self-care amid the news cycle.
PRIORITISE PEOPLE, NOT PROVIDERS
The final report of the aged care royal commission has called for fundamental reform to a system based on John Howard-era legislation that commissioners criticised for focusing on funding requirements of providers rather than the care needs of older people.
With more than $9.8 billion cut from the annual aged care budget since the Aged Care Act 1997, Guardian Australia reports that Scott Morrison responded with an immediate $452 million package and a promise for a “comprehensive” response for further funding to address the commission’s call for a “generational paradigm shift” to a needs-based funding system.
The report Care, Dignity and Respect makes 148 recommendations, namely for a rights-based Aged Care Act, staffing ratios, and clearing the home care waitlist by the end of the year. While the majority are focused on “the quality and safety task”, the ABC explains that almost a third are split along governance and funding grounds i.e. the creation of a new, independent statutory agency v beefing up the Department of Health.
PS: The report was only released about 10 minutes before Morrison’s press conference, a point 7.30’s Anne Connolly thankfully brought up.
BUT WAS IT WORTH IT?
Finally, Al Jazeera reports that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of corruption and influence peddling for having tried to bribe a senior magistrate with a Monaco job in return for confidential information about an inquiry into allegations he accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
The court found that Sarkozy, a former lawyer, was “perfectly informed” about committing the offences and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. The conservative former leader has 10 days to appeal the ruling, and the one year sentence means it is unlikely Sarkozy will physically go to prison considering France usually requires a jail term of above two years.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
At times in this inquiry, it has felt like the government’s main consideration was what was the minimum commitment it could get away with, rather than what should be done to sustain the aged care system so that it is enabled to deliver high quality and safe care. This must change.
Royal commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Tony Pagone
Tucked away in volume one of the aged care royal commission’s final, eight volume report — which the government released about 10 minutes before its press conference announcing a response that amounts to less than what the war memorial just got — is a damning account of government apathy that could only ever be found in federal attitudes to aged care. And maybe climate action. Or JobSeeker, they basically admitted as much. Then there’s the recent sexual assault allegations, the federal anti-corruption body, the Uluru Statement, housing, wages, governing in general…
Note: This story discusses suicide and explicit details of sexual assault.
“One of Australia’s most prominent politicians, a current cabinet minister, has been accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988. Last year his alleged victim took her own life. Crikey has decided not to publish the woman’s name. She will be referred to from this point as Jane Doe.
“The details of that night have been shared with politicians including Prime Minister Scott Morrison through an impassioned letter written by Jane’s friends and Jane’s detailed police statement (submitted in 2020 to NSW Police).
“Crikey has seen both these documents, including photos of diary entries from the years shortly after the alleged attack. Crikey has spoken to the lawyer who helped her write her statement, Michael Bradley (who writes on legal matters for this publication), and to three of Jane’s friends who knew her when she was a student and have requested anonymity.”
“As matters stand today, the prime minister has, among the 16 male members of his cabinet, a senior minister who is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988. I’ll put this upfront: The victim was my client, and I know who the minister is. My commentary is based purely on what’s on the public record.
“The question confronting Morrison, his cabinet ministers, his outer ministry and his entire government is politically explosive but ethically straightforward. What should they do?”
“There are no good ways out of the situation Australian federal politics, and the political class, now find itself in. Only bad ones, and less bad ones.
“A cabinet minister is accused of rape in 1988, by a woman who took her own life last year, ending decades of misery and illness. The relevant documents have been known to some media outlets for differing periods of time, but they became known more widely when they were sent to a number of political figures and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
As gut-wrenching scandals shake the government, Scott Morrison fumbles when he should lead — Katharine Murphy (The Guardian): “In this latest terrible instalment — the saddest of stories — the prime minister doesn’t read things, isn’t inclined to pursue rumours to ascertain truth, and won’t launch an independent inquisition to get to the facts (at least not yet) because he’s not a police force, which sounds a lot like the logical extension of not holding a hose, which was the lesson he was supposed to learn during the bushfires — the last crisis Morrison fumbled in full public view.”
Aged-care royal commission recommendations should be implemented quickly ($) — Sarah Holland-Batt (The Australian): “Commissioner Lynelle Briggs has reached the mystifying conclusion that the bureaucrats and infrastructure responsible for the current stagnant and toothless regulatory regime deserve a second chance — or, more accurately, one more in a series of seemingly inexhaustible second chances. Commissioner Tony Pagone QC reached the opposite view, recommending that an empowered statutory body independent of the Department of Health should administer and manage the sector. The commissioners are also divided on the way the sector’s funding levels are determined. These unprecedented and intensely disappointing disagreements give the government cover to equivocate further.”
Passionate young voices demand to be heard on climate crisis — Editorial (The Sydney Morning Herald): “It was more than a decade ago that former prime minister Kevin Rudd declared climate change ‘the great moral challenge of our generation’. Regrettably, the generation that has walked the halls of power since that time, most notably in Federal Parliament, has largely proven not up to the task. And those who will be most affected by a warming planet — the younger generation — are not happy.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
UNSW Canberra will host digital event “Howard Government Retrospective V, 2021” to coincide with the 25th anniversary of John Howard’s first election victory, which will feature speeches from Howard, Tony Abbott, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon and more.
Day one of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics’ three day outlook conference, to feature speeches from ministers and industry leaders.