On Monday (9/11/2020) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Four Corners program, the lid was blown off the code of silence operating within the Parliamentary press gallery over the ‘private lives’ of parliamentarians1. In this program, it was clear that Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Aland Tudge, and Attorney General, Christian Porter were having affairs with staffers from Parliament House.
Alan Tudge was having an affair with Rachelle Miller, a staffer in his office1,2. When dealing with the same sex marriage plebiscite in parliament, Tudge stated: “My reservations about changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples was my view that marriage is an institution that traditionally has been primarily about creating a bond for the creation, love and care of children. And I was concerned that if the definition is changed to be purely one about recognising love, rather than a foundation for the raising of children, then the institution itself would potentially be weakened”3. When Tudge delivered that speech, he was married with children, and having the affair with Miller. After the affair with Rachelle Miller ended, she was demoted in a restructure.
Christian Porter was apparently having an affair with an unnamed staffer while married to his second wife, Jennifer, with whom he had two small daughters. In 2018, while being interviewed on the ABC’s program 7:30 about whether sexism was a problem in the Liberal Party, Porter said “I’ve got a daughter; I’m married to a lovely person who’s a lawyer and has been involved in male-dominated professions for a long time. So, it’s something that’s constantly on your mind, and it’s something that I talk to my staff about and that from time to time, of course, is a subject matter of conversation with your colleagues. But this is about every individual, I think, holding themselves to high standards and, as I say, I think that there probably is room in politics to be a bit kinder to each other”3. Porter’s second marriage has apparently ended, because he and his wife announced their separation in January of 20201.
One of the disturbing things about this is, once the word got around about the Canberra Bubble episode of Four Corners, the pressure but on the ABC was, in the words of Executive Producer Sally Neighbour “extreme and unrelenting”2. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, being the vindictive person that he is, will not forget this, and it will lead to more sanctions for the ABC, budgetary or otherwise.
Of course, the Liberal Party and its supporters in the Financial Review and the Murdoch media have tried to pass the activities of Tudge and Porter off as something that is nobody’s business because those involved were consenting adults, and state that the ABC should not have broadcast the Four Corners episode. As I have said here several times, it is not the horizontal folk dancing that matters, but what goes with it4,5. This ‘it’s private’ spiel is the usual type of distraction used by the Liberals in such cases and is perhaps best demonstrated by the drivel spouted on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing by Senator Matthew Canavan who said: “the ABC has unnecessarily besmirched itself in the last 24 hours….. I don’t think that trawling through people’s private lives on national TV is the best way to handle these issues. I haven’t watched the show [?]….You can’t see the reporting from the ABC over the last 24 hours as anything else as an attempt to assassinate particular people’s characters on one side of politics”6.
One factor which matters here is the power imbalance between these supposed consenting adults. This was clearly demonstrated to be an important issue with Rachelle Miller who was being asked by Tudge, as her boss, to do things about which she felt uncomfortable, and when the affair ended, was then demoted. It was also clearly important to the young woman who spoke, while in tears, to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young about the pressure she felt to acquiesce. The other aspect of this which has not received as much attention as it should is the hypocrisy of Tudge and Porter. For Tudge to whine about the debasement of marriage by allowing same sex couples to wed, and for Porter to talk about his wife dealing with this sort of behaviour from men and how he warns his staff about it, leaves me at a loss to express how disgusted I am. The fact that Morrison has not demoted these hypocrites, says much about his supposed ‘christian’ values. Like Tudge and Porter, he is beneath contempt.
Another layer of deflection has been added in an attempt to bury this story. There is now a ‘debate’, apparently initiated by Gladys Berejiklian about the wording of the National Anthem. So, what does the media do? Slavishly follow behind, picking up the breadcrumbs left for them by the Liberal Party. Much of Australia’s media really are hopeless.