Squiz Today / 04 March 2021
Squiz Today – Thursday, 4 March
“This isn't a holiday trip, this is actually a job that needs to be done.”
AN UNHOLY MESS...
Australia’s Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter is the unnamed senior Liberal at the centre of historical sexual assault claims. Fronting the media yesterday afternoon, an emotional Porter adamantly denied that he’d raped a 16yo girl in 1988 when he was 17yo and they were in Sydney for a debating competition. The claim surfaced when the ABC published a story last Friday saying PM Scott Morrison, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong, and Greens Senator Sarah Hansen-Young received information from an anonymous source outlining the accusations but not naming the parties. Since then, pressure has been building on the Morrison Government and the man in question to respond.
WHAT DID HE SAY?
The full transcript of his press conference is here. But in short:
• Porter says “what has been put in various forms and allegations simply did not happen.” And he addressed the parents of the unnamed woman, who took her own life last year. “You have suffered a terrible loss, and you did not deserve the frenzied politicisation of the circumstances of your daughter's death of the past week,” he said.
• He will not stand aside or stand down, saying he won’t set a precedent that would see "anyone in public life is able to be removed simply by the printing of an allegation”. To go would mean “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.”
• And he said his mental health is in bad shape. “For the many caring family and friends who have asked me that question over the course of the last week ‘are you OK?’ I have got to say my answer, my honest answer is, I really don't know.” He will take a couple of weeks off and seek help.
Well, questions about the need for an inquiry into the allegations have not been settled, but that might become irrelevant with the South Australian coroner David Whittle yesterday stepping in to say the state’s police investigation into the woman’s death is “incomplete”, and he will “determine whether to hold an inquiry” when it concludes. That could take the investigation of the historical rape claims forward, legal experts say. As for Porter and Morrison, Labor leader Anthony Albanese yesterday said they’re not off the hook. “I think people will be looking for further responses beyond any statement that might be made today by the minister,” he said. So while yesterday was described as one of the worst days in federal politics of recent times, it isn’t over yet…
SQUIZ THE REST
AND WHILE WE’RE ON ABOUT THIS…
There were three other notable developments.
• Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is reported to have called Brittany Higgins a “lying cow” while discussing her former staffer's account of reporting her alleged rape. In a statement last night, Reynolds didn't reject the claim, saying that she did "comment on news reports regarding surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented." Reynolds remains on medical leave.
• Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell was criticised for warning cadets against being out late, drinking too much, and presenting themselves as "attractive" lest they be targets of sexual assault. That’s “not helpful rhetoric,” said Grace Tame, our Aussie of the Year and sexual abuse survivor. Campbell sought to clarify the comments made in a speech last month, saying he was trying to highlight that Defence took safety seriously.
• And Tame, who addressed the National Press Club yesterday, said she was not surprised by the claims that have dominated federal politics in recent weeks. “Cover-up culture, the abuse of power, is not unique to Parliament … it happens everywhere," she said. Asked about Morrison’s ‘as a father’ comment, she said "it shouldn't take having children to have a conscience."
ANTI-CHINA SENTIMENT HITS LOCALS
Chinese-Australians have been caught in the crossfire between Canberra and Beijing's deteriorating relationship, a new Lowy Institute survey suggests. The think tank - which surveyed 1,000 people - found nearly one in 3 Chinese-Australians had been verbally abused over the past year, while one in 5 had been physically threatened or attacked. Before 2020, public sentiment towards people of Chinese heritage in Australia was improving, but the pandemic and growing tensions between our nations have seen things turn nasty for many. And while nearly half of Chinese-Australians said they were concerned about Beijing's influence over Australian politics. Concerns about the rise of racism and right-wing extremism have seen growing calls for PM Scott Morrison to establish an anti-racism strategy.
ECONOMY LIFTS, BUT STILL BEHIND FOR THE YEAR
Go you good thing… The Aussie economy delivered an “extraordinary” 3.1% rate of growth for the December quarter. It means that for the first time since the Bureau of Stats began recording GDP data in 1959, Australia’s economy has grown by more than 3% for 2 consecutive quarters. Yay… The gains were led by a strong agriculture sector (thanks La Niña...), as well as increases in consumer spending and the government's great big stimulus items like JobKeeper. But the ongoing pandemic meant that the economy still shrank by 1.1% in 2020. Boo… Despite experiencing the first recession in nearly 30 years following the coronavirus outbreak, we recovered 85% of the losses by December. Which is something…
NOTABLE COMPANY MOVES AND SHAKES
Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson and board member/former senior public servant Michael L’Estrange yesterday became the latest to step down over the mining company’s controversial destruction of culturally significant rock shelters in Western Oz’s Juukan Gorge last year. While the blasting of the 46,000yo site was given a thumbs up by the state government, it went against the land's traditional owners' wishes. Thompson called the decision "a source of personal sadness and deep regret" and "a clear breach of our values as a company". It follows the resignation of former boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two senior execs last year. Faring significantly better is Mike Sneesby - he will replace outgoing Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks as boss of the broadcasting and publishing network. Marks announced his departure after finding love with a colleague - something the board was not comfortable with. The appointment of Sneesby, who currently heads up streamer Stan, comes from within the Nine family.
BULLYING CLAIMS LEVELLED AT MEGHAN
Geez the Sussexes have been in the news a lot lately... And yesterday, their lawyers called allegations that Meghan had bullied Kensington Palace staff a “calculated smear campaign” from Buckingham Palace just days before the airing of their tell-all interview with Oprah. In the claims published by The Times of London on Tuesday, 2 palace aides claimed “emotional cruelty and manipulation” at Meghan’s hands. It wasn't all bad news for Meghan yesterday - she learned she would be awarded £450,000 (A$800,000) for her legal win against the Mail on Sunday. A court found the publication breached her privacy after it published excerpts from a letter she wrote to her estranged father in 2019. The tabloid is set to appeal the decision.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Bee aware… Aussies are twice as likely to bee hospitalised with a bee or wasp sting than an encounter with any other venomous creature. And we have 20 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world - but at least we don’t have glow-in-the-dark sharks…
Dolly Parton had a coronavirus vaccine shot yesterday and recrafted her classic song Jolene to fit the occasion. ‘Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate.’ The legend donated $1 million for coronavirus vaccine research last year.
And if you have a spare $300,000, maybe a bid on a silver 911 Porsche formerly owned by soccer immortal Maradona is in your future? There’s just 120,000km on the clock…
SQUIZ THE DAY
• the 2nd Battle of Vinegar Hill (aka Castle Hill rebellion) in NSW, when Irish convicts led the colony's only significant convict uprising (1804)
• the publication of the song Happy Birthday To You by Claydon Sunny (1924)
• former Zimbabwe PM Robert Mugabe rising to power (1980)
• the marriage of Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall (2017)
• the deaths of actor Luke Perry (2019)
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