I am not usually inclined to watch the press conferences of politicians. I tend to regard politicians as a necessary evil – democracy being a better system than any of the alternatives, but still laden with insincerity and demagoguery. So why validate the individuals any more with attention than they already get?
I did make an exception yesterday, to watch the federal Attorney General The Hon. Christian Porter MP make a press conference to disclose the worst kept secret of recent days, that he is the Cabinet Minister accused in various documents of being a rapist in 1988 of a woman who recently killed herself.
He was very tearful during the press conference, and expressed sorrow for the bereaved parents of that woman. He also denied any wrong doing.
We have a legal system which has a strong commitment to the presumption of innocence and due process of the law. I was disappointed that he, as Attorney General, did not make that point as clearly as he should have. He should have said: “In our legal system, we are all protected by the principle that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
That, at least, would remind people of how the criminal justice system operates, without having to refer to reruns of Law & Order.
He did also express dismay that no one (ie journalists, I suppose) had put the allegations to him in a way in which he could have replied to them.
I do consider that a self serving observation on his part. How does he feel that allegations should have been put to him? In a request for comment in an interview or in a letter? Or in a formal record of interview under caution against self-incrimination?
A considerable amount of the previous public record about his character, including observations by former prime minister Turnbull, does not present a particularly flattering picture of this chap.
But I think the measure of the man is not so much in this incident, but in his former role as Social Services Minister.
Let’s look at some of the public record on Robodebt:
Many of the most vulnerable Australian citizens were served with notices of debts to the Commonwealth issued by an automated system which relied on a spurious methodology, and with limited right of appeal. Essentially, in an administrative (rather than criminal) sense, they were considered guilty until proven innocent. And Mr Porter was a major player in this, with very limited sympathy for those people.
Whether or not Mr Porter did what he is alleged to have done in February 1988, he will be measured by the court of public opinion against his entire conduct and character and his ability to display genuine empathy, including not only the nature of his denial yesterday but also his denial of wrong doing in the Robodebt tragedy.
Despite my usual voting sympathies, I do not see a place for him in public life in this nation. He should go.