scott morrison stands behind a podium facing members of the press
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Note: this story contains references to sexual assault.

Don’t think for a moment that today’s self-outing of the accused cabinet minister wasn’t every bit as stage-managed and media-savvy as everything else this government does.

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, there is literally nothing, however serious, however demanding of a non-political response, that will not be subordinated to the Morrison government imperative of spin and presentation.

The word that the minister was planning to step forward — and not step down — was carefully leaked to journalists yesterday, then presented to the public in those hazy terms of obfuscation that journalists use to cover their tracks: “sources said”, “the ABC understands”.

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Why not say the minister’s staff said it, or the PMO advised it would be happening? What better way to confirm a public impression of a governing class that plays its own games and keeps its own secrets from the public than this sort of caper.

To what extent does this sort of journalism slide into complicity, especially when the identity of the minister is already widely circulating and had been mentioned online by at least one credible legal journalist?

The timing of the announcement would also have been carefully considered in terms of the impact on the evening news bulletins in the eastern states — too early, and the media would have had time to garner responses from the complainant’s supporters and take the temperature of the reaction to it.

In any event, Australian of the Year and rape survivor Grace Tame was speaking at the National Press Club at lunchtime, and the optics of any announcement while she was speaking would be… unfortunate.

Later in the day, the better the chances the preferred government narrative — an outstanding minister cruelly victimised by claims of a crime he never committed, bravely doing the right thing — would come through.

Of course, that narrative may be entirely truthful. Or not. The question is how we find out, not how well the government — yet again — massages the media.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.