The Guardian • Issue #1953

Impasse reached over Christian Porter rape allegations


E Lennon

Amid a media storm, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and front bench politicians have voiced their support for the Attorney-General.

The ABC explored the claims in its Four Corners report. Friends of the woman who accused Christian Porter outlined their perspectives on the historical abuse allegations. The report also revealed personal accounts of the now-deceased woman.

In 2020 the woman made a report to the NSW sex crimes unit, who were then going to investigate the claims. In June, she told them this was no longer what she wanted. The next day, after a long struggle with her mental health, the woman took her own life.

In a thirty-minute media conference, the Attorney-General repeatedly denied any wrong-doing when journalists asked for his recollections of what happened in 1988.

“Just imagine for a second that it’s not true,” said Christian Porter. “That for whatever reason the recollection and the belief, which I’m sure was strongly held, is just not true. Just imagine that for a second.”

Both Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have dismissed calls for an inquiry. Their decision not to back the investigation comes after NSW police have cited a lack of “admissible evidence” for the case to proceed with.

Reporters questioned the Attorney-General and he gave emotional responses, rebuffing any attempts by journalists to pry further into his thoughts on the allegations. When asked by one reporter if he recalls the events of the night that the incident was supposed to have happened, he refuted any knowledge of specifics outlined in the woman’s written statement.

“I have never seen that statement” said Porter. “No-one has provided it to me. I have never been asked on it before. It was a long time ago. But I can just say to you that the things that are written and said to have happened, wherever they are said to have happened, that is the first time they have been put, that they happened in someone’s room, they just didn’t happen.”

Christian Porter then went on to argue against being stood down from his position as Attorney-General.

“It would mean, in this hyper-politicised world that we have,” he said. “That any allegation would basically mean if it weren’t resolved through a court process to some group’s satisfaction, that the person has to end their life and their career.”

The Prime Minister has supported Porter to stay in the role, despite recommendations from former Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.

Gleeson outlined the clear process that the Prime Minister should have followed after the thirty-one-page statement was sent to his office. To take the matter directly to the current Solicitor-General who would then deliberate over the credibility of the material and how an inquiry could take place constitutionally.

The Prime Minister and other Liberal MPs from the moment the allegations broke skirted around this possibility. Morrison came out to declare him “innocent under law” and that he would not be removed as Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations.

Jeremy Samuel, a friend of the woman, called for an inquiry into the allegations on the ABC’s Four Corners.

“I would have thought if there was an inquiry by a competent person without a political agenda, that that would be a way of stopping this trial by media.”

Michael Bradley, who was the woman’s lawyer, also came out in support of an inquiry.

“He is the first law officer” he told Four Corners. “It is a unique position, in a sense, it is an apolitical position because he oversees the whole system of justice and sits above all the judges, all the barristers, all the solicitors, all the legislation, you know all of our laws.”

“He’s responsible for all of that and it is absolutely essential that the person in that role has no suspicion, no cloud hanging over them.”

These allegations come as other women have come forward about their own experiences during their time in Parliament. With three accusing the same man of rape.

According to a 2018 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), “1 in 5 (1.7 million) women and 1 in 20 (428,000) men have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since age 15.”

While no judgement has been made on any of these allegations, and the Christian Porter case will likely go cold, it’s nevertheless important to acknowledge the issue of gendered violence.

The AIHW report states that the risk of abuse against women goes up for those facing greater disadvantage and vulnerability.

“Some groups of people are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence, particularly Indigenous women, young women, pregnant women, women separating from their partners, women with disability and women experiencing financial hardship.”

Support and recognition for working class and vulnerable women must be focused on, despite the recent spotlight shining so brightly on the Canberra bubble. Conversations on abuse committed against women should occur within an inclusive framework. One where the institutionalised oppression of women is viewed as part of class struggle.

The analysis of different material conditions in which the patriarchy will manifest itself to support power structures must come into play. This means focusing on the experiences of women from these aforementioned backgrounds and how abuse furthers their alienation.

Gendered violence and oppression will remain a pervasive issue throughout capitalist systems for as long as they are reproduced culturally, upheld by those in the ruling class, and reaffirmed through institutionalised inequality.

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