Christian Porter
Christian Porter (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

PORTER V ABC

Note: This story discusses sexual assault.

Both Labor and the Greens have renewed calls for an independent investigation into an historical rape allegation denied by Christian Porter, following news the former attorney-general had discontinued his defamation claim against the ABC.

Separately, news.com.au reports that media organisations including News Corp and Nine will today challenge his demand that the broadcaster’s “scandalous” legal defence must be permanently removed from federal court files.

Conditions of the agreement mean the redacted parts of ABC’s legal defence are wiped from court records, and that the broadcaster updated the original article with an editor’s note that reads:

The ABC did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged [or] contend that the serious accusations could be substantiated to the applicable legal standard — criminal or civil. However, both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted.

As Guardian Australia reports, Porter labelled the agreement a “humiliating backdown for the ABC” and claimed his legal action forced the broadcaster “to say they regret the article,” which he calls “sensationalist” and “one-sided”.

But in a series of clarifications, the ABC said it does not regret the article and stands by its importance, characterising it as “an accurate and factual report on a letter that had been sent to the Prime Minister and two other senior politicians”. Separately, the ABC states the only costs it paid apart from its own were mediation and related costs.

Executive producer of Four Corners Sally Neighbour has also alleged Porter accused her of lying after she tweeted “‘no money was paid”; Neighbour meant that no money was paid directly to Porter, and shortly clarified her tweet to say that “no damages were paid”.

Finally, in updated legal advice leaked to The Australian ($), ABC lawyers later told reporters: “Do not suggest that CP has ‘lost’ the case, just that he has ‘decided to discontinue’.” Presumably, this a reference to pro-ABC (and, legally-speaking, false) interpretation of the agreement shared on social media, while a quick Google shows several News Corp columnists ($) have since argued the opposite reading.

1800 Respect: 1800 737 732; Lifeline: 13 11 14.

STICKING POINT

The Morrison government has asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to reconsider mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for aged care workers, the ABC reports, amid criticism of the vaccine rollout and news the government allowed aged care staff to work across multiple sites.

While the federal government reinstated the ban on staff working across multiple sites — a ban which is attached to a grant program and only mandatory during an outbreak — last Thursday, a quarter of facilities are still waiting for their second vaccine and six have not received their first. As The Project revealed, families of residents have also disputed Health Minister Greg Hunt’s suggestion last week that a) 100% of Victorian aged care residents would have their first dose by last Friday, and then b) a subsequent lack of uptake was down to refusals.

The Victorian government did not rule out extending the lockdown yesterday after the outbreak grew to 54 active cases, including a 99-year-old resident and two aged care workers — one of whom remains a mystery case.

According to The Age, an increasing number of the state’s mass vaccination centres are offering Pfizer shots for people aged in their 40s who walk in off the street.

And as exposure sites have passed the 325 mark, the Herald Sun reports four new sites have been listed as tier 1 — JMD Grocers & Sweets in Epping, Healthy India supermarket in Reservoir, Inday Filipino Asian Store at Footscray Market, and Thai Huy Butcher, Footscray Market — while fears a worker at Metropolitan Remand Centre could have been exposed has sent hundreds of prisoners into lockdown in their cells.

PS: As The Mandarin ($) unpacked yesterday, the only employees currently required to be vaccinated are hotel quarantine workers in Victoria and Western Australia and health workers treating COVID-19 patients in Queensland.

STATE WRAP: NON-COVID EDITION

Finally, a look at what states not in lockdown are up to:

  • NSW Labor MPs have called for former leader Michael Daley and Kogarah MP Chris Minns to resolve their stalemate over the party’s leadership this week, with a full rank-and-file ballot required if one candidate does not withdraw (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Western Australian Premier and Treasurer Mark McGowan announced a “modest and reasonable” 1.5% rise in household fees and charges, or about $99 per average household in the 2021-22 financial year (ABC). The government will also use its new majority in both houses to dismantle an archaic requirement that businesses wanting to open their doors on Sunday seek a formal exemption from the commerce minister (The Australian $)
  • South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has told a parliamentary committee on the Repeal of Sex Work Offences Bill that the criminalisation of sex work creates barriers for workers to use safe sex practices and access appropriate health care
  • Anyone who returns from overseas, quarantines interstate, and then travels soon afterwards to the Northern Territory will now be required to receive a COVID-19 test three days after they complete their fortnight of quarantine (known as the “day 17 test”)
  • Queensland politicians will receive three pay rises in the next 15 months following a ruling from the state’s independent remuneration tribunal — a change that The Australian ($) reports as Annastacia Palaszczuk reneging on a pre-election promise to freeze politician pay rises throughout the pandemic.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

The 26 February 2021 article remains online without any amendments.

The ABC has not said that it regrets the article. As we have stated, the ABC stands by the importance of the article, which reported on matters of significant public interest. The Editor’s Note says: ‘(B)oth parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted.’

The ABC has never and still does not accept that the article suggested guilt on the part of Mr Porter. The ABC did not plead a truth defence to the ‘guilt’ meaning that Mr Porter alleged in his statement of claim…

The ABC

Following Christian Porter’s declaration that his lawsuit forced the ABC “to say they regret the article”, the national broadcaster issues a series of blunt clarifications, chief among them that no, they do not regret the article.

CRIKEY RECAP

Houston, we have a problem: Hillsong brings in the crisis management lawyers

“Note: The following article contains descriptions of indecent assault.

“Hillsong has brought in a high-powered firm of corporate lawyers specialising in crisis management in the wake of an indecent assault case at the church’s bible teaching and leadership college in Sydney.

“The church is also dealing with what it calls a ‘lengthy’ letter setting out concerns from current and former students of the college. The concerns relate to how Hillsong handled allegations made by a young international student, Anna Crenshaw, who was indecently assaulted at a 2016 gathering attended by Hillsong students and staff in Sydney’s northwest.”


‘It’s not a race’ declares a government that can’t see the finishing line

“One of the clear differences between Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull that became evident after the former replaced the latter was that Morrison and his office were far less likely to sit back and do nothing while problems worsened. Instead, they would move quickly on political sore points and deal with them — sometimes inelegantly, but the results were better than the inclination of Turnbull’s political machine to let things drift and fester.

“Now, however, the Morrison government is marked by a strange passivity. After its fiscal flurry last year and its closure of Australia’s borders, its management of the pandemic has been complacent and slow: no new quarantine facilities have been built, Australians overseas and desperate to return home have been abandoned, its hastily-developed tracing app is an expensive and now-ignored joke, and the vaccine rollout has been a debacle despite months of additional planning and preparation compared to overseas.”


Treasury shouldn’t control super funds — the members should

“The government is attempting to step in and stop superannuation funds from making poor investment decisions with your retirement savings. But support for the government’s “’Your Future, Your Super’ package is waning — Coalition MPs have criticised it as giving too much power to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“Instead the system should be democratised, with superannuation members empowered to vote on where their cash is invested and trustees held to account for poor decisions.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Beautiful, rare ‘purple cauliflower’ coral off NSW coast may be extinct within 10 years

Harvey Norman silences social media critics after union protests and JobKeeper backlash

Singapore to start vaccinating adolescents as PM outlines reopening plans

Clive Palmer ‘sceptical’ on Galilee Basin coalmine approval ($)

Noel Fielding and Cheryl Tweedy bring phone-hacking claims against Mirror owner

Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to test entire population as COVID-19 cases surge

China introduces three-child policy to alleviate problem of ageing population

THE COMMENTARIAT

PM a winner as Porter drops defamation fight but no resolution for votersDavid Crowe (The Sydney Morning Herald):Christian Porter and the ABC were competing so hard on Monday to claim victory in their defamation fight they forgot to name the clearest winner. Prime Minister Scott Morrison wins from an outcome that keeps the former attorney-general out of the courts on an allegation he raped a woman in January 1988. There will be no further defamation action against the ABC that allows Porter to enter the witness box and deny the claims against him under oath.”

Most vulnerable let down again ($) — Stephen Lunn (The Australian): “The Morrison government should have thrown the kitchen sink at protecting the 250,000 Australians living in nursing homes from COVID. Especially after they bore the brunt of the virus last year. Of the 910 people who died of coronavirus in Australia, 685 were in aged care. Most of those deaths, 655, were in Victoria. We now learn a problem most Australians believed had been fixed, that of casual carers working across multiple facilities during a pandemic and thereby risking higher spread, continues.”

Who sold me this?Oliver Reeson (Kill Your Darlings):Now That I See You is a work of autofiction written from the perspective of a cis woman whose partner realises they’re trans and begins to explore more comfortable modes of gender expression. Autofiction is hard to do well: On some level, I think it’s cool that one of our more commercially oriented publishers is releasing autofiction to Australia’s mass market. A lot of Australian autofiction exists online, but it rarely crosses over into print publication. But to insert yourself into fiction and retain a sense of balance in the created world is extremely difficult.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Senate estimates will this week examine Community Affairs; Economics; Education and Employment; and Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.