‘What are you afraid of ScoMo?’: Australian women are angry — and the Morrison government needs to listen


Camilla Nelson, University of Notre Dame Australia

Thousands of women are gathering in cities across the country, angry about the allegations of rape, sexual abuse and harassment emerging from our parliaments and schools. They’re also furious with a prime minister who’s said he’s too busy to attend a rally in person to hear these concerns and would prefer a private meeting.

In Sydney, thousands of women gathered in crowds outside the town hall, spilling into the surrounding streets. They were dressed in black, waving placards: “What are you afraid of ScoMo?”, one read. “You will be held accountable,” said another. Another: “We shouldn’t need to do this.”

Lawyers were also conspicuous, some bearing the logos of prominent Sydney firms. “Lawyers for equality” their slogans read, and “We fight fair”.

Men of all ages were also there, together with First Nations sisters and members of non-binary, trans and queer communities.

Mounted police were making their presence felt at the edge of the crowd.

The mood was defiant, with the slow burning anger of women who were determined to fight for the long term. “We will not be silenced,” investigative journalist Jess Hill told the crowd. “The time for silence is over.”

“We’re marching for justice,” said another speaker. “We won’t stop marching until we have justice.”

A moment to listen

It shouldn’t be that hard for a prime minister to realise this is a moment to listen.

The powerful words of Grace Tame, Australian of the Year and a child abuse survivor, have been a catalyst for longstanding rage. The rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins demand attention and action. The online petition launched by former Sydney schoolgirl Chanel Contos, which triggered a string of sexual assault allegations against students from elite boys’ schools, underscores the depth of the problem.

NSW police are also investigating allegations women as young as 16 were harassed in MP Craig Kelly’s electorate office by an employee (who denies the allegations and remains in his role at Kelly’s office). Allegations of sexual harassment have also been tabled in the South Australian parliament.

The nation’s first law officer, Attorney-General Christian Porter, faces an allegation he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago. He has strongly denied the allegation, but many have continued to call for an open inquiry into the claim.

By refusing to step outside the parliament to answer women’s justified concerns, the prime minister has demonstrated callous indifference. It looks like he is prioritising media management — the risk someone will snap an unflattering photograph as he embarks on his next campaign — above humanity.

Minister for Women Marise Payne drew further attention to the government’s contempt by similarly signalling her intention to remain absent today.

This disregard builds on the prime minister’s already very public refusal to read the words of the woman at the centre of the Christian Porter case. Morrison said he discussed the claims with the accused, “who absolutely rejects these allegations”, and spoke to the Australian Federal Police commissioner and various senior public servants. Having done all that, he told reporters, “there are no matters that require attention”.

In responding this way, the prime minister has generated more of the anger he hoped would disappear.

Last week at his media conference, the attorney-general asked the media to imagine “just for a second” that the allegations are not true. The women gathered at the March 4 Justice are answering that we also have a moral obligation to imagine “just for a second” that they are. What then?

A systemic culture of sexism

In Australia, up to one in five girls will be sexually asaulted. Of women over 15, one in two report being sexually harassed. The aged care royal commission heard there are 50 sexual assaults a week in the aged care system.

I am no longer surprised to hear disclosures of sexual assault and domestic violence from my students or other women. I am only surprised when a woman claims she hasn’t been.

Workplace sexual harassment particularly affects women in their early 20s when they are too young to have gained access to inner circles occupied by slightly older women – the places where discrete warnings against certain male colleagues are issued, but only whispered for fear of defamation suits.

The wrongness of sexual abuse has only recently – and unevenly – been recognised. But there is a terrifying contradiction between the wrongness of rape and sexual assault and harassment, the sheer prevalence with which it occurs, and the inability for women to obtain redress from the courts via the so-called “rule of law” repeatedly invoked by the prime minister.

This moment is a reckoning well beyond the Christian Porter or Brittany Higgins allegations, or the findings made against former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon by a High Court inquiry.

Ending Canberra’s toxic culture is the rallying point, but women are also taking to the streets because these failures are intrinsically connected to a systemic culture of sexism in law, politics and policy-making.

Last week, a Grattan Institute report revealed women took the brunt of job losses generated by the pandemic. It also confirmed that women experienced a disproportionate share of the burden of unpaid work during lockdown, particularly the burden of home schooling. Female casual workers were also disproportionately excluded from government benefits such as JobSeeker. Meanwhile, plans for family law reform due to be tabled this week are likely to have dramatic impacts for survivors of domestic violence and their children.

The government’s apparent inability to adequately listen or respond to the serious concerns of women suggests a deep, underlying cultural reason for its policy failures.

The gains that older women, and women of my own generation thought we had won, seem to be evaporating. Or perhaps the real problem is that at a cultural level, they were never really won at all. And so the fight begins again.


If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, please call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor in Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Christian Porter sues ABC and reporter Louise Milligan for defamation


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Attorney-General Christian Porter has commenced defamation proceedings in the Federal Court against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan.

He is suing over an article the ABC published on Friday, February 26, which he says made false allegations against him in relation to a person he met when he was a teenager.

The story reported police had been notified of a letter sent to Scott Morrison detailing an alleged historical rape by a federal cabinet minister.

A statement from Porter’s lawyer Rebekah Giles says although Porter was not named, the article made allegations against a senior cabinet minister “and the Attorney-General was easily identifiable to many Australians”.

The lawyer’s statement, issued on Monday, says that in the last few weeks Porter “has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations”.

“The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings,” it says.

“The claims made by the ABC and Ms Milligan will be determined in Court in a procedurally fair process.”

The statement says Porter will give evidence “denying these false allegations on oath.”

The ABC and Milligan have damaged Porter’s reputation by publishing the allegations, the statement says.

“This Court process will allow them to present any relevant evidence and make submissions they believe justifies their conduct in damaging Mr Porter’s reputation.”

The statement points out that under the Defamation Act, it is open to the ABC and Milligan to plead truth in their defence – “and prove the allegations to the lower civil standard”.

Porter’s lawyers include two leading barristers, Sue Chrysanthou SC, and Bret Walker SC, who appeared for Geoffrey Rush when he successfully sued the Daily Telegraph for defamation. Walker also acted for Cardinal George Pell, whose child sex abuse convictions were overturned in an appeal before the High Court.

A statement of claim filed in the proceedings says the article carried the defamatory imputation that Porter brutally raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988.

It says the ABC and Milligan published the article without any attempt to give Porter an opportunity to respond.

It accuses them of selecting portions of the material in order to make the allegations against Porter appear as credible as possible when other portions demonstrated the allegations were not credible.

“Milligan engaged in a campaign against Porter in order to harm his reputation and have him removed as Attorney-General,” the statement says.

The ABC said it would defend the action.

Porter’s office announced late Monday that he will return to work on March 31. He is currently on mental health leave. His return date means he will miss all the current parliamentary sitting and will not be back in the House of Representatives until the budget session in May.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Attorney-General Christian Porter declares alleged rape ‘did not happen’ – and he won’t stand down


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Attorney-General Christian Porter has identified himself as the minister accused of historical rape but declared categorically that the 1988 claimed assault “simply did not happen”.

A highly emotional Porter told a Perth press conference he had not slept with the then 16-year-old who made the allegation more than three decades later. “We didn’t have anything of that nature happen between us,” he said.

Porter declared he was not standing down from his position as first law officer.

“If I stand down from my position as Attorney-General because of an allegation about something that simply did not happen, then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print.

“If I were to resign and that set a new standard, there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney-general anyway because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country.”

Porter will take a couple of weeks leave to “assess and hopefully improve my own mental health”.

“I think I will be able to return from that and do my job.”

He said he has been asked by colleagues “Are you OK?”. His answer was “I really don’t know. I am not ashamed to say it – I am going to seek some professional assessment and assistance on answering that question over the next few weeks.”

Porter said that in the past few days, while he had remained silent during the legal process, he had been subject to “the most wild, intense and unrestrained series of accusations I can remember in modern Australian politics.”

He said he had never had the allegation put to him in any substantive form before last Friday’s publication. “No-one put anything in any detail to me seeking a response.” He had never seen the woman’s statement, although a statement from her was included with the letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week. The ABC published the allegation late Friday.

On the incident itself, Porter said when he was 17 and she was 16 they were both on the Australian schools debating team for a competition in Sydney. He remembered her as an “intelligent, bright, happy, person.”

He was noticeably reluctant to go into detail. Under questioning, he said he did not think he had ever been alone with her, but admitted “it’s not impossible,” while saying he was never in her room.

He recalled a memory, sparked by what he had read of the material – “I don’t think any of us had ever ironed a shirt before, and I recall, she showed us how to do that, I remember that.”

It was a team of four, including three boys and “we did what normal teenagers would do”.

“I remember two evenings that week. One was a night at one of the colleges with bowls of prawns, which sticks in my mind. I do remember a formal dinner and going out dancing sounds about right.”

He said he was not in contact with the woman – who took her own life last year – in subsequent decades.

Porter began his news conference by referring to the woman’s parents, saying he hoped they would understand that in denying the allegation “I do not mean to impose anything more upon your grief”.

He rejected the volley of calls into an independent inquiry into the allegation.

“What would that inquiry ask me to do? To disprove something that didn’t happen 33 years ago.”

“I honestly don’t know what I would say to that inquiry. Of course I can’t.”

Porter said he had spoken to Scott Morrison and had his full backing.

He said he was deeply sorry for the fallout the issue has had for his colleagues.

“My colleagues have become the target of allegations and speculation themselves. My colleagues are my friends. And I’m deeply sorry to each of them for that.”

The issue exploded last week when friends of the woman wrote to Morrison and several other parliamentarians demanding an inquiry into her allegation. The letter included a statement the woman had made, detailing her alleged experience.

The woman went to the police a year ago but had not made a formal complaint.

The allegation has derailed the government for a week, when it was already struggling to contain the fallout from former staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegation she was raped by a colleague in the office of the then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds in 2019.

On Monday, Morrison said the woman’s allegation against Porter was a matter for the police. The federal police referred it to the NSW police. The NSW police said on Tuesday that, “based on information provided to NSW Police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed.

“As such, NSW Police Force has determined the matter is now closed.”

Porter denied the allegation to Morrison on Wednesday of last week.

The ABC’s Four Corners was pursuing the woman’s story last year, but in the end was not in a position to include it in its November program “Inside the Canberra Bubble”. That program reported sexist comments made by Porter as a young man.

Porter entered federal parliament in 2013 after a high profile career in Western Australian politics, where he served as attorney-general and treasurer.

Federally, he was social services minister in 2015-2017, before becoming attorney-general. After the 2019 election, industrial relations was added to his responsibilities.

Australian of the Year Grace Tame, an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, answering questions at the National Press Club, criticised Morrison over invoking his wife Jenny’s counsel that he should think of the Higgins’ situation as a father. “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience,” Tame said.

Michaelia Cash will be acting attorney-general while Porter is on leave.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

India: Toddlers Gang-raped


The link below is to an article reporting on the gang-rape of two toddlers in separate incidents in India. India has a major problem in the treatment of females and serious action needs to be taken.

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/17/girls-two-five-raped-delhi