I’ve never been in anything like Attorney General Christian Porter’s position, but I suspect if I was innocent of any allegations as he claims he is, then I’d demand an independent inquiry to demonstrate that innocence.
According to their public statements, neither Morrison nor Porter have read the 31 page ‘dossier’. I find that impossible to believe in Morrison’s case, and I suspect he has read it, or at least had one of his minions read it to provide him with dot points. I think the reason he is saying he hasn’t read it is to allow himself to add one more excuse to his quiver of non-answers. In addition to ‘I do not agree with the premise of your question’, I do not comment on gossip’, and ‘that’s a Canberra bubble question’. Now we have ‘I haven’t read it’.1
Many of the members of the government have wheeled out the ‘rule of law’ mantra in response to the allegations, along with ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The former is simply a verbal distraction for those journalists who work for Murdoch or are gullible enough to believe it applies. In fact, the ‘rule of law’ is not about protecting your mates, it is about treating everyone equally before the law regardless of their position. That is something that went west in Australia years ago, and has been made worse by the current government. The presumption of innocence is something that only seems to apply when the government wants it to apply. The whole Robodebt debacle was predicated on the recipients of the demands being guilty until they could prove their innocence2.
Ben Saul, Challis Chair of International Law at Sydney University has opined that it is not only through criminal processes that such an alleged rape can be investigated. This puts the lie to another common thread in the government’s rhetoric, that the police have dealt with the allegations. He said: “It is normal that the same conduct of a person may be subject to different legal processes for different purposes – criminal, civil, employment, disciplinary, human rights, ombudsperson, coronial etc.”, and: “The standards of proof may differ between processes for different purposes. Non-criminal processes may not depend on the existence of any criminal process, let alone a conviction on evidence beyond reasonable doubt, or the views of police.”3
Saul added that the government “is not legally required to establish an ad hoc inquiry into the matter. It is a political question of what our democracy expects of the character and fitness of any politician, particularly a cabinet minister and first law officer” and “whether we trust the Prime Minister alone to judge it when he has a clear partisan political conflict of interest, the matter is so serious, and larger issues of violence against women are of such public concern”.3
I suspect the reason Morrison and Porter do not want an inquiry is that Porter will be fully informed of the evidence, something he and Morrison have studiously avoided so far. That evidence includes that in the 31 pages written by the deceased, and her friends and family. Any properly constituted inquiry will be able to “forensically test his version of events” and to consider evidence from witnesses3. If Porter is so certain that nothing happened, then surely, he would welcome an inquiry. It seems to my untrained eye there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from Porter’s and Morrison’s rejection of an inquiry. People like Morrison, Porter and their ilk only scream about the rule of law when they don’t want to be subject to it.