As Christian Porter links himself to allegations of a teenage rape, Susie O’Brien and Patrick Carlyon thrash out the Attorney General’s conundrum.
As Christian Porter links himself to allegations of a teenage rape, Susie O’Brien and Patrick Carlyon thrash out the Attorney General’s conundrum.

Is Porter playing victim or casualty of imperfect system?

OPINION

Attorney General Christian Porter believes he is the victim in all of this - not the woman who took her own life as she pushed for historical rape charges to be pursued against him.

Haunted and emotional, Mr Porter made it clear that if he stood down because of "untrue allegations" there would be "no rule of law to protect this country".

Everyone in Australia would be at the mercy of unreliable allegations," he said.

He was empathic.

"The things that have been claimed to have happened did not happen," he said.

He was tearful.

"It was a long time ago and I remember her as a happy person".

His accuser's recollections suggest that she does not share these fond memories. I've been told I cannot name her, although I would like to do so given that I knew her during the late 1980s at Adelaide University.

It would be nice for her to remembered as the smart, driven person she was, not the anonymous figure she's become.

 

Mr Porter's words are sure to resonate with many of those uneasy about public allegations which can never be properly tested in a criminal court of law.

"No one is beyond an allegation, no one," he said.

However, such comments play into the misconception that allegations of rape like these ones are often made for nefarious purposes or by people who have unreliable memories.

Much evidence suggests this is rarely the case.

Mr Porter argued there was no need for an independent inquiry. He said he didn't know what would be achieved if he was put on trial and "asked to disprove something that didn't happen".

He's forgetting that all we have is his word that these things didn't happen. His accuser has left behind detailed accounts and there are also reports from her close friends, who are in no doubt that what she claimed did take place.

An investigation would give the rest of us some clarity. It would also send an important message to sexual abuse victims that their accounts are taken seriously. It could achieve a lot.

Mr Porter would well know that if his accuser hadn't taken her own life, the path ahead would possibly be quite different.

It's hard to imagine this going away. Mr Porter may find the inquiry he argued against today is called while he's on leave.

This is by no means a sure thing. The Prime Minister says he believes sexual abuse survivors, but sadly, he doesn't seem to believe this one.

 

 

GUILTY OR NOT, IT'S TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

They say it's all in the timing.

There is no "accused" in the story of a rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter, not officially, anyway.

The minister has finally identified himself as the subject of an alleged assault in 1988.

He has not been charged, and probably never will be, given NSW police investigations have ceased.

Herein lies the conundrum.

The minister has declared his innocence. But he will never be found guilty, or not guilty, in a court of law.

On Wednesday, Mr Porter did not equivocate: he did not rape anyone. He projected outrage and bewilderment.

And he made some fair points.

Why weren't, or so he claimed, the allegations put to him before they were published?

If this was the "new normal" of trial by the press, many more public figures were doomed to be smeared without protections of the law.

And this: how can you disprove an event that you say never happened from 33 years ago?

Yet it's tempting to judge Mr Porter not by his words, as forceful as they were, but his choices over recent days.

Porter met with the Prime Minister last week to discuss the allegations
Porter met with the Prime Minister last week to discuss the allegations

Mr Porter first heard rumours last November. He met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deny the allegations a week ago. The story broke on the ABC last Friday.

Since, the claims of the victim have been drip fed in the media. Her friends wrote in a circulated letter that she ended her life "because of his actions".

Until yesterday, then, Mr Porter sat tight even though a rape, and consequential suicide, were levelled against him, even if not by name.

He cited the prospective prejudicing of police investigations to explain his silence.

Yet this is not a natural response when a man is unfairly accused of a heinous crime.

The natural response would be to take out full-page newspaper ads, to speak to every journalist who will listen, and to defend your reputation at any cost.

Mr Porter has derided the process as unfair. Yet his staying quiet, perhaps in the hope the story might fade, raises questions that could have been avoided.

Like the wooden government response to the assault allegations of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins a few weeks ago, this sorry saga appears to have been "managed", not addressed.

An acknowledgement of the claims against Mr Porter - by Mr Porter - was always essential if the minister aspired to any future in public life.

It took him five days to respond to the allegations. His statement seemed five days too late.

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 

Originally published as Porter: Playing victim or casualty of imperfect system?



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