Dave Allen used to tell a joke…
Well, he used to tell a lot of jokes he was a comedian, after all, and he was often politically incorrect. As Darryl Somers said about “Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday, if the show were on today it’d be cancelled. In Dave Allen’s case, it would probably be more because he’s dead, but then I guess you could say the same about a lot of Daryl Somer’s humour.
Anyway, the joke went like this: “One in three road accidents is caused by someone with alcohol in their system… This means that two-thirds of the accidents are caused by SOBER PEOPLE! Why don’t they get off the road and give the poor drunks a go?”
While it’s not very funny, it’s been great for teaching kids about using statistics in argument. You put forward the proposition that the guy saying this has a really good point and they respond that it’s just stupid. When you tell them that statistics don’t lie, they know there’s something wrong, but they have trouble articulating exactly what. Eventually, someone gets it and says that the number of alcohol-related accidents is disproportionate to the number of drunk drivers, but it often takes a while.
I bring this up because of Scott Morrison’s assertion: “Christian Porter is innocent.”
Like the kids in class trying to work out what was wrong with the proposition that drink driving is safer, I couldn’t work out exactly what I was objecting to. After all, I do support the idea of the presumption of innocence. And I did understand that conviction in a court of law would be difficult owing to the death of the victim and the historical nature of the case. Even an investigation could prove inconclusive.
Allowing for all that, I was still disturbed by Morrison declaring Porter innocent. Why was this more galling than the average, “I wasn’t convicted so the court has completed exonerated me!” Courts rarely “exonerate”; the best is that they don’t find people guilty. Lack of evidence is NOT proof of innocence. It simply means that the person should be given the benefit of the doubt.
On a side note, I am wondering when appeals courts throw out convictions because of irregularities to do with the Gobbo fiasco, will the same people who now assert that the High Court found George Pell innocent as opposed to not guilty, suddenly start suggesting that particular underworld figures are similarly “innocent”.
So what was wrong with Morrison’s assertion of Porter’s innocence. Do I not accept that I must presume him innocent?
And then I remember the Dave Allen joke.
We’ve been hearing statistics about how only three percent of rapes result in convictions. And we can speculate about all the possible reasons for it.
But I just want to spin the Morrison thing around and make it not about Porter but pursue it to its logical conclusion. It means that the subtext is all the rapes that didn’t result in a conviction were made against innocent men. 97% of the claims are therefore false and made against innocent men.
Everyone – except Pauline Hanson – knows that’s nonsense.
When the Prime Minister suggests that you can’t judge someone guilty on the basis of an accusation, he’s theoretically right. However, that doesn’t mean that you can simply dismiss the accusation and say we can’t condemn people on the basis of an allegation. That’s when you end up with the absurdity of the past week and Eric Abetz. (I’m referring to the specific statement by the Tasmanian speaker not the general absurdity of Eric.)
Scotty’s response to that could be summarised as: “Blokes sometimes get it wrong but I haven’t with Eric because he assured me that he didn’t say those things and that she was just making it up and while I believe in the general principle that we should believe a woman, you just can’t when the bloke vigorously, strenuously or categorically denies the allegation because a man’s a man for all that. Investigate further? But I already have his denial. What would further investigation achieve?”
Of course, one very interesting thing about the conversation Eric didn’t have with Sue Hickey on March 1st was the fact that he identified Porter before Christian had outed himself. If the conversation had taken place as Ms Hickey says, then this would have been three days after the letter that Morrison never saw was delivered to his office and five days after Morrison confronted Porter with the allegations which he didn’t have. So, if Hickey is telling the truth – and it appears that she spoke to the Tasmanian Premier at the time – the question must be: Who told Abetz? Remembering that part of Porter’s defamation claim is that he was identifiable from Louis Milligan’s article do we conclude that the phrase “senior Cabinet minister” was something that Eric read and immediately thought: “That can only be Christian!” Or was it an open secret like the prayer room which apparently everyone but Scotty knew about?
As for Brittany Higgins allegation that his office was backgrounding journalists about her partner, it would be unfair to simply believe her. After all, as he pointed out many times, he’d seen no evidence. Had he asked his staff it were true? No need, because he’d seen no evidence it was happening and if you haven’t seen any evidence, they all must be innocent and there’s no formal complaint and… Oh, Brittany’s made one. Well, he can’t believe her just because she said it’s true. Neither can he simply ask his staff. No, we need another inquiry which will go to enormous lengths and leave no stone unturned in its attempts to get to the truth of this matter. It may take years, but it needs to be thorough.
Anyway, just because our PM believes Porter, Abetz et al, this doesn’t mean that he always disbelieves the woman. I’m sure that if any woman has any charges against a member of the Opposition, Morrison will happily endorse it even before an investigation.
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