This is part two in a series. Read part one here.
Note: this story discusses sexual assault.
The total resistance to an inquiry into the allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter is of course being driven by internal Liberal Party politicking. My God, there must be some act three of Downfallgoing on there.
An inquiry, with Porter temporarily out of office, would help conserve the political system. Morrison announces there’s no alternative. The inquiry considers both the 1988 allegations and the 2020 handling. Porter is dropped down a proverbial lift-shaft, whatever happens. Morrison apologises for the minor crime of bad handling — “much to learn”, “new era” — and actually gains from it.
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That won’t happen, but it’s what such inquiries are for. The charge by Paul Kelly and others that this would represent a Star Chamber is of a piece with all the other dumb contributions by much of the pro-Porter media. It’s as if no one’s read anything but A Man For All Seasons in Year 10.
We’ve had inquiries into specific ministerial conduct before. And the special character of a sovereign minister means that such inquiries must be an essential part of the legislature’s powers. Everyday life is criss-crossed with tribunals which make decisions on “the balance of probabilities”, precisely because their rulings have no carceral consequences.
Without an inquiry, what do the politics come down to? We’ve heard a lot from the progressive class, the knowledge and progressive bourgeoisie, progressive youth etc (who are overwhelmingly pro-inquiry). But we haven’t heard much from people outside of that — discounting the letters pages of the Herald Sun as somewhat skewed.
But the Morrison government would surely have to be wondering whether its stand for an elite, arrogant professional politician against a “witch-hunt” is going to counterbalance the potential gender split in key middle-class suburban seats in the major cities, upon which its majority depends.
Labor lost a half-dozen of those narrowly in 2019 because, in part, it couldn’t activate a moral objection to the Morrison government and its claim to better management of prosperity.
Porter’s not a sympathetic figure. He’s officer-class, not a bloke. Kate ( as she was named by the ABC earlier in the week and in Crikey today) is every 16-year-old girl who’s had to fight off a raging 17-year-old boy (whether the alleged events occurred or not). If you simply consider the private school cohort, that’s about a quarter of the Kooyong/Higgins/McNamara electorates.
Defending Porter to the last man could widen the gender gap enough for the Morrison government to fall into it in 2021-22 — especially if he were to recontest his seat. What sort of dark carnivalesque nightmare would that campaign be?
So to some degree, there’s a question of the performance of power also, and what undermines it beyond recovery. Ironically (not ironically) if any organisation has finished Porter as a public figure, I would argue that it’s News Corp. Jamie Walker’s recent story in The Weekend Australian gave a degree of detail from Kate’s account that tipped over into old-school sex crime reporting.
While The Weekend Oz‘s editorial fulminated about trial-by-media, Walker’s piece was like an old two-pager rape-trial special from Truth in the 1970s. For obvious commercial reasons: The Weekend Oz supports the weekday Oz losses, and needs blockbuster sales.
Others hadn’t included this level of detail in their stories, likely out of concern for the posthumous dignity of the woman and the young girl she was. News Corp felt no such compunction. Christian Porter is now the bloke accused of anally raping a 16-year-old girl while she slept, having previously forced here to perform oral sex.
Porter could resist the ABC’s coverage. I’m not sure he can survive his friends at News Corp. This is politics now. Politics is many things, but one thing it ain’t is a debating society.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.