Mr Porter’s Problem

Thursday, Mar. 4, 2021

It’s not that he’s an entitled brat who’s never properly grown up. It isn’t that he counts himself among a group of Liberal politicians who style themselves The Swinging Dicks (a tip, fellas: buy better underwear). It isn’t that, as a consequence of his all-too-common adolescent male fantasy, he’s in that cohort of men who think women are privileged that he has noticed them and should be grateful for this beneficence. It’s not even that as attorney-general of the Commonwealth, he’s Australia’s senior law officer: that may formally be the case, but he’s just another politician, and in his case, a bad one.

Christian Porter’s problem is that when he finally fronted up to a media conference and unwelcome photo opportunity in Perth yesterday, having by his silence for far too long allowed the other 15 males in federal cabinet to be speculated upon as possible rapists, he spent 45 minutes explaining that he was the victim. Pass the sickbag. With that pathetic demonstration of the true nature of his character, he identified himself very clearly as a man with whom it would be unfortunate if not fatal to share a foxhole under fire in No Man’s Land. He denied all allegations against him. He is entitled to do so, under oath or otherwise. But there could not be a police investigation because – and there are sensible reasons for this – a complaint dies with the complainant. In this instance, too, the woman who lodged the complaint, alleging that the attorney general of the Commonwealth raped her in 1988, when he was 17 and she was 16, had not formalised her complaint before she took her own life.

Ending a police inquiry – before it had begun, in this instance – has no bearing on determining whether there should be an inquiry into historical allegations of rape. Again, Attorney General Porter is entitled to protest his innocence. He is entitled to smear the memory of the woman who claimed she was his victim, by asserting that none of the events alleged took place. In his view, then, she lied, or was mistaken, or was malicious or mad. He can do that in perfect safety. The dead cannot sue for defamation. 

But there is a word that aptly describes powerful, well-connected men whose superior sense of entitled grievance when challenged leads them to assert that they are excused scrutiny. Mr Porter has added a substantial footnote to the lexicography of crude epithets with his performance yesterday in Perth.

Instead of clearing the air by finally finding some courage – by announcing, say, that he maintained his denial of the events alleged but that in the circumstances there should be an inquiry and that he would stand aside while this took place – he gave us a fairy story. He asserted that if allegations were made against politicians and others who denied them, and that if they had to stand aside while these were investigated, then the whole basis of our rule of law would be destroyed. Give. Me. A. Break. The office of attorney-general is just that, an office like any other. If an incumbent cannot act, whether or not temporarily, other people can fill that office. No one would fall off the sides of Mr Porter’s apparently flat earth if he did the decent, sensible thing. Except perhaps in astonishment.

NOTE: Paul Kelly has a good piece in The Australian today that puts another argument. It’s worth reading, if it’s available to you, and I have done so. I can’t post a link to it here, as I no longer subscribe to the newspaper. That’s a budgetary decision rather than a cerebral choice. I’ve always read from a variety of contestable sources.