Note: This story discusses sexual assault and suicide.
A spokesman for Christian Porter has conceded to news.com.au that while the attorney-general does not recall any contact with his accuser after a debating contest weekend in 1988, “if there is some information that there was some form of contact in the early 1990’s, that is not impossible and it’s not a case of disputing that possibility.”
Porter told reporters during his denial of historical rape allegations on Wednesday that he had never met his accuser again, however the woman’s unsworn affidavit alleges they had dinner in Perth in 1994.
Separately, the woman’s family has released a statement issuing support for “any inquiry” that would shed light on her death, whether it be a coronial inquest or independent investigation.
While Scott Morrison earlier rejected calls for a new process, Sky News reports that, if the prime minister does launch an inquiry, he could include claims against Bill Shorten. The former Labor leader, who also rejected historical claims, was questioned along with his complainant as part of a case closed by Victoria Police in 2014 after the Office of Public Prosecutions found “there was no reasonable prospect of conviction”.
All panelists on last night’s Q+A supported calls for an independent inquiry into Porter’s allegations save for Nationals Senator Susan McDonald, who stuck with Morrison’s line and invoked “kangaroo courts” and “courts of public opinion”; lawyer and friend of the deceased woman Dhanya Mani instead called for High Court inquiry, while journalist Samantha Maiden argued for a coronial inquest.
PS: Elsewhere, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Brittany Higgins has demanded a public apology by Linda Reynolds for calling her former staff member a “lying cow”, under threat of defamation over the “demeaning and belittling statement”.
TSUNAMI WARNING WITHDRAWN
Authorities in New Zealand have withdrawn an earlier tsunami warning which was sparked after a shallow, 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the country’s north-eastern coast early this morning.
Guardian Australia reports that while there have not been any immediate reports of serious damage or causalities — residents of Gisborne reported light to moderate shaking — residents have been asked to remain alert, however “there is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, former chief scientist and current “special adviser on low-emissions technology” Alan Finkel is conducting a global lobbying blitz to assure allies such as the UK, America, and Japan that Australia has a plan to achieve net zero emissions.
The Morrison government has not released or legislated any plans beyond a relatively-paltry 2030 target of 26-28% below 2005 levels, and readers may remember Finkel as the architect of one of many emissions-reduction mechanisms rejected by the Coalition, the Clean Energy Target.
The news comes, as RenewEconomy reports, after United Nations secretary-general António Guterres called on leaders of OECD nations, including Australia, to present plans for the phase-out of thermal coal use by 2030.
ASSISTED DYING BILL TO BECOME LAW IN TASMANIA
Finally, Tasmania’s House of Assembly has passed a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, which the ABC explains is set to become law as it heads back to the state’s Legislative Council after being introduced by Independent MLC Mike Gaffney last year.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I don’t agree with that because I don’t agree with the precedent or the prima facie case for there being such a process.
Because that would say the rule of law and our police are not competent to deal with these issues.
This is not the mob process. There is not the ‘tribe-has-spoken’ process.
In rejecting calls for an inquiry into the historical rape allegation denied by Christian Porter, the prime minister overlooks several comparable precedents, arguably the dumbest of which saw Labor’s Mick Young step down from cabinet during a judicial inquiry into an undeclared Paddington Bear.
“Christian Porter, in strongly denying allegations of a 1988 rape, is the last figure in this government who can seriously rely on the rule of law in his defence. His actions as attorney-general have trashed it.
“Porter’s actions in his vexatious prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery — a prosecution motivated by a desire to punish those who revealed the Howard government’s shameful spying on Timor-Leste to help political donor Woodside — have been a complete abrogation of the rule of law. Porter has sought to keep the prosecution secret, in blatant disregard for the fundamental rule of law tenet of transparency, with the aim of covering up the actions of John Howard, Alexander Downer and DFAT and ASIS officials.”
“Friends of the woman who alleged she was raped by Attorney-General Christian Porter during a school debate trip in 1988 are disheartened and saddened by the government’s response — or lack thereof — to the allegations.
“Despite many providing their contact details in a letter given to several politicians outlining the allegations, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Crikey understands no one named in that letter has been contacted by anyone within the Morrison government.”
“It’s not the first time Porter has evoked the notion of reputational damage as some kind of sin. As attorney-general he has repeatedly pursued the idea that the reputations of public figures should forever be guarded against the lurking risk of ‘unjust and irreparable harm’.
“In an address to the National Press Club in 2019, he described the right of an individual to protect their reputation as ‘the foundational goal of any liberal democracy’.”
“The aim of Christian Porter’s tearful press conference yesterday was clear: recast himself as the victim of a media smear, a “whispering campaign”, which, if successful, would somehow totally destroy the rule of law in Australia.
“The same journalists who left then Labor leader Bill Shorten alone over historic rape allegations in 2014 had hounded Porter to the verge of a mental breakdown.
“That narrative has quickly become the backbone of the Coalition’s line on Porter. And since yesterday it’s been picked up and run with by several media commentators, who’ve been all too keen to cast their own colleagues as the true villains of this whole affair.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Christian Porter’s political career is finished, no matter what you believe — Jenna Price (The Canberra Times): “Let me just say I accept that Christian Porter believes what he says about the sexual assault allegations against him. I also thank him for having the guts to hold a press conference to answer questions. It cannot have been easy, although perhaps easier than hearing whispers in the corridors abruptly terminated as he approaches. Speaking about sexual assault is never easy for any of us. Perhaps the minister’s experience will be a lesson for his colleagues.”
ICAC funding must not depend on the very politicians it investigates — Editorial (The Sydney Morning Herald): “A strong Independent Commission Against Corruption that can hold politicians to account has never been more important. ICAC this week announced public hearings into a series of land deals close to major public works projects involving former sports minister John Sidoti. It has also extended its inquiry into the business dealings of Daryl Maguire, former MP and Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ex-boyfriend. The Herald revealed yesterday that Mr Maguire talked to Ms Berejiklian in 2016 about a government road project the month after buying an investment property next to it.”
Can Scott Morrison’s rhetorical style cut through the rising tide of anger? — Annabelle Lukin (The Conversation): “As a linguist, I have followed Morrison’s rhetorical development from his budget speeches as treasurer, his defence of himself and his government in the face of the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis, and now allegations of rape against a senior staff member then in the defence minister’s office, and another against Attorney-General Christian Porter. Under the pressure of these complex political matters, Morrison has developed his trademark, slippery rhetorical style.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Vigils will be held across Australia to mark the third anniversary of Border Force’s raid and detention of Biloela family Priya, Nades, and daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa.