Note: The bulk of this piece was written before the announcement that the Cabinet Minister accused of the rape of a young girl would out himself.
1 The problem with Insiders is that it is so dammed inconclusive. What do I mean? Well, in its allotted hour, it discusses a lot but concludes little.
Take last Sunday for example. If the word “concludes” means to “bring to an end” or “reach a conclusion”, the show fails miserably. A lot was discussed, principally in general terms, but little of it had a “So where do you think that leaves the government now, Phil?” question to it.
It looked as though they had dragged three people off the street to discuss things they had little opinion about, and it showed through.
Despite the seriousness of the points in question, I was staggered by the casualness with which the journalists answered/discussed the issues at hand.
It went like this, if you take my point: “It was only my interpretation of what he meant. I mean, did he say what he meant, or did he really mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really what he meant?”
Yes, it was all mumble jumble, a waffle of repetitive stuff that was already on the table and required some conclusion.
And whilst David Speers is a good interviewer, his greater need to entrap his guest on some mundane point every week I find stomach-churning.
In this case, the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, wouldn’t be moved on whether the Cabinet Minister alleged to have raped a young girl should have his name revealed. It’s the Prime Ministers decision, he repeated ad nauseam until Speers accepted his answer.
It was apparent that Scott Morrison could: a) leave it with the police, b) allow the person to come out of his own accord, c) allow it to be leaked or revealed under Parliamentary Privilege, or d) release it himself.
As it turned out, he elected to go with the first choice, which of course, should leave every cabinet minister hopping mad while the eyes of the world are upon any 16 of them.
It was a display of illogical leadership by Morrison based on his passionate belief that his Minister was telling the truth. In this case, it required more than just a bit of blind passion – some even-handedness.
The voting public and the government must now satisfy themselves that it is perfectly alright to have an alleged rapist within government ranks.
Notwithstanding all of that, the accused must also be afforded a presumption of innocence.
Of course, if you lived inside the Canberra bubble – as most political journalists do – then you would probably, as would the politicians, know who this person is.
It wouldn’t surprise if many people had already determined that they couldn’t vote for a rapist in their party, alleged or not.
Inevitably, it will go public. It could be published in some corner of the internet where Australia’s defamation laws don’t reach. Or a member of a State or Federal Parliament will name him under Parliamentary Privilege.
However, when his name is revealed, it might become apparent just why Morrison had not made the person known in the first place.
It came as no surprise when Christian Porter fronted the media.
And it is here that to give this piece some relevance; I need to say that it was announced late on Tuesday that the Minister involved would give his side of the story on Wednesday.
Before I begin, please compare these two statements by the Prime Minister.
“I had a discussion with the individual, who as I said absolutely rejects these allegations – and so after having spoken to the commissioner and the deputy secretary of my department, there are no matters that require my immediate attention.”
“I have listened to Brittany. Jenny and I spoke last night, and she said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?’
So, the Prime Minister has admitted that he hasn’t read the statement of the young woman who later committed suicide but completely accepts what his Minister has told him. In doing so, he rejects out of hand whatever the girl said. That is a very dismissive way to treat her.
Australian of the Year Grace Tame in an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, gave an unforgettable speech on sexual harassment. I will be eternally grateful.
At question time, when asked about the performance of the Prime Minister, she was less than enthusiastic. Who can blame her when he makes such contradictory statements? Particularly, as in 2019, he said that victims of rape should come forward with the view that they would be believed.
Her putting down of Scott Morrison’s remark about his consultation with his wife Jenny was classical.
“You shouldn’t need to have children to have a conscience.”
It was a speech that will be long remembered by those fortunate enough to remember it.
“Mr Albanese warned the PM the scandal “won’t go away”, and directly attacked him by pointing out the “stark contrast” between Mr Morrison’s insistence the Minister in question is entitled to be presumed innocent, and a 2019 clip of him saying all rape victims should be believed.”
It came as no surprise when a teary Christian Porter fronted the cameras in Western Australia.
He remembered nothing. It was a Morrison defence. He repeatedly said, “It just didn’t happen,” as if he was trying to convince himself.
He was in complete denial, and one had to wonder if it was on this basis that the Prime Minister accepted he was telling the truth. Personally, I would need more than he presented.
He was unaware of any of the allegations until very recently. He followed all the accepted ruled of denial. He couldn’t talk about the allegations because nothing happened.
He will take a short break for the sake of his mental health. No, he will not resign. His character has been tested beyond belief. I know nothing. Nothing sexual happened.
I found it astonishing that neither the Prime Minister nor the Attorney General had read the dossier. I struggled to believe Porter that he remembered specific points but not others.
All it did for me, and I suppose for many others, was to reassert that Scott Morrison needs to have an independent and open inquiry. It is the only valid path to take. Sure, it wouldn’t/couldn’t resolve all the issues, but at least it might fix some loose ends (like the behaviour of men in our parliament).
The events of this week will never go away. To quote Kaye Lee:
“We make haste slowly.
But we cannot give up.”
Now back to Insiders.
The panel included Rosie Lewis, Lanai Scarr and Phil Corey. Whilst I agree with having every possible representation in journalism, they should limit it to those who can make a point without any waffle. (Apologies to Phil). And, of course, those who have a forceful television personality. These days all they seem to do is agree with each other.
This government, of course, stuffs up so much that it makes it nigh on impossible to cover it all in an hour, and in this instance, the allegation of rape against an unknown cabinet minster was allowed so much time that other important subjects barely got a mention.
But they did Craig Kelly (will the Nationals pursue him?) and his sidekick Frank Sumbo, procedures against sexual harassment, the presumption of innocence, the government’s newfound working majority, Peter Dutton’s entry into the rape issues to darken the waters, Nicolle Flint to leave politics after confronting attacks, why the Liberals don’t support women, will Lynda Reynolds retain her job, the new dole payment and the poverty line and JobSeeker (or was it dob a seeker?), or Penny Wong, Linda Reynolds, and the Press Club.
Around 15 issues were canvassed, all of which had a negative slant towards the government, but nobody thought to sum up the government’s standing.
Maybe I have been a little harsh in my assessment of the Insiders programme. Perhaps it’s the Liberal and National parties who are at fault for the avalanche of material that needs to be discussed.
If they didn’t stuff up as much as they do, then the show might be able to vent its spleen at a slower pace.
The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can.
2 As the female journal journalist said to the Prime Minister; “You release a report, [Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report] and then 30 minutes later you call a news conference. Fact is you do it all the time.” Well, don’t hold me to those words, but they are reasonably accurate.
And so began what turned out to be a somewhat ridiculous news conference on one of the most severe topics of recent times. With an ageing population, both sides of parliament had known for many years that a crisis in aged care would come sooner or later.
One side knew that it had overlooked 20 reports that had come before the Royal Commissions. It now has to make decisions that will shirt front its philosophy that individuals should pay for their aged care and health costs, for that matter, instead of depending on the state.
However, what they need to decide here and now is what sort of society they want, then Morrison and Frydenberg will have to stare in the face of these questions.
When drafting a budget for the common good, what should your priorities be?
Do you want to do what’s best for Australia’s citizens who have little, or are you more inclined towards increasing the riches of our wealthiest?
My thought for the day
The true test of any nation surely must be how it treats its most vulnerable.
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