Mr Porter is the name of a high end on-line shop for men who should know better – including me. It is also the name of the Commonwealth Attorney-General. He denies an allegation of rape alleged to have occurred thirty years ago. The press is all over it – and all over the place with some dreadful flashes of ignorance about the law and due process – common fairness. The following comments come from discussion I have had with colleagues this morning. There is some duplication.
I do not know what an inquiry would be expected to achieve – except the sale of more newspapers.
Those pursuing Porter have what Helen Garner called an ‘agenda’. They are about as sensible as animal rights people. It’s as if this man must suffer to expiate all the sins committed on women in the past. That is revolting.
Another difference with the Heydon case is that the victims there were alive and kicking and their allegations could be subject to some kind of test.
There was a worrying reference, I think in The Age yesterday, to the parents of the girl. They did not want her to proceed with the complaint because, it was reported, they were worried that her mental condition may have led to her claim being embellished. If that condition was present at the time of the alleged offence, it is very worrying.
I do not like the man at all. But, thank God, that is not the issue. I feel desperately sorry for him.
A friend of mine said: ‘Kate Thornton’s parents do not think it happened. Her friends do. Obviously nobody can get any closer to the truth and nothing can be done. Hardly seems much consideration is being given to her grieving parents.’
David Speers, who is no dill, referred to a finding ‘on the balance of probabilities.’ That would not apply even in a civil action, and common decency should be revolted by the idea.
The level of ignorance in the press is remarkable. On any view this is a human tragedy – but that does not mean someone has to do something. That is the great Australian answer in a nation never weaned off government. Things just happen that leave us powerless. The suggestion that the inquiry be not into the rape allegation but whether he is fit for office – the question only arising because of the rape allegation – is so inane it might be mendacious.
You would hope editors would get commentators to put their comments to a decent lawyer before going public. Would an inquiry be public or private? Would it have the power to subpoena witnesses? Would they put the parents through that pain by calling them – in private or public? What rules of evidence would apply – to their evidence or that of other witnesses? Above all, what are the questions that the inquiry will be asked to answer? And what will be the standard of proof to be satisfied in answering those questions? If Porter is be cross-examined – by whom and on the basis of ‘evidence’ that cannot be led in the normal way?
The suggestion that an inquiry would give Porter the chance to clear his name is so disingenuous, it looks dishonest.
I conducted a sensitive inquiry with heavy political consequences. It was very tricky. It would be a walk in the park compared to this cess pit.
Those making the most noise will suffer the least.
It is all so sad – and yet so familiar.