Gendered violence unacceptable; but the law is the law


Today’s series of March4Justice events against sexism and gendered violence are a warning shot to the Government and other institutions that Australia needs to get on top of this issue - and fast. The independent inquiry into the culture of Parliament House by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, is a great first step and should be fully supported and resourced. My fear is that it will not be done quickly enough to satisfy the justifiable outrage that many women have about gender-based violence being swept under the carpet.


One can draw parallels between The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was announced by then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in November 2012 and concluded five years later in 2017. The process was, by degrees, horrific, traumatising, healing and cathartic for the witnesses, those involved in the hearings and the community at large. It was tough, but it was necessary, and we got through it as a nation. Hopefully, we are now better off for having laid bare the horror of how our children were treated in (largely) government and church-based institutions and it will not occur again.

A further (and broader) inquiry into gendered violence may well be an outcome of the Kate Jenkins look at the culture within Parliament House. Because it is VERY clear that sexism and gendered violence exist across all facets of our community – not just within Parliament. The fact that the Parliament sets our laws makes it appear somehow worse, but regardless of where it occurs and in what context, sexism and gendered violence are unacceptable.

So, having established why we need a much more rigorous look at gendered violence, you may be surprised to hear that I believe there should not be a separate inquiry into Christian Porter MP in relation to the allegation of rape made by the now-deceased, Kate, against him when he was 17. Regardless of what we all believe, given that she is dead and the matter has been dropped by the NSW Police and cannot go to trial, the truth can never be established beyond reasonable doubt. This is what is required by our legal system and a right all Australians can depend upon. 

Further, Christian Porter cannot be sacked as a Minister for something he may or may not have done 33 years ago and for which no case has been brought against him. It would be unreasonable to do so – regardless of our politics or personal view or how he conducts himself now. We may not like it, but it is the system and the democracy we gratefully live under.

This is not to say that the Prime Minister could not have handled the matter better. Such as reading the dossier sent anonymously to him (and Penny Wong and Sarah Hanson-Young) by the woman’s friends after she took her own life in June 2020, and then referring the matter to the Police or the Solicitor General. As former MP Julie Bishop pointed out in a brilliant interview on 7:30 Report last week, she would have read the dossier compiled by Kate and, depending on what she read, may have taken the matter to the Police.

As a reader of both left and right wings of the press (and some in between) the report by Janet Albrechtsen and Peter van Onselen in The Australian this weekend  was insightful.  “It is hard to read. But had ­Morrison bothered to read Kate’s statement before listening to the Attorney-General’s version of events, his decision to reject calls for an inquiry would have been better informed.

Let us all try to be better informed, less judgemental and seek more light, truth and transparency in relation to sexism and gendered violence; but not set ourselves up to be judge, jury and executioner.

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