Saturday 23rd of October 2021

nothing learnt...

how good...















Australian of the Year Grace Tame has launched a withering attack on the Morrison government’s decision to return Christian Porter as leader of the House of Representatives.

Mr Porter, who was leader of the house until outing himself as the subject of historic rape allegations in March, has stepped back into the role temporarily this week.

He was replaced as leader of the house by Peter Dutton. But Mr Dutton is in mandatory quarantine in Queensland for a fortnight, due to his sons’ exposure to the coronavirus, and cannot attend Parliament.


Mr Porter was chosen to fill the resulting gap over the deputy leader of the house, David Gillespie.

In opinion piece in the Nine newspapers on Wednesday, Ms Tame – a sexual abuse survivor and advocate – slammed the decision to temporarily re-elevate Mr Porter amid the rape accusations, which he categorically denies.

“If the Prime Minister’s recent rhetoric about wanting to support assault survivors and protect women’s safety was indeed true, he would surely go to any lengths possible to ensure there was not an accused rapist amongst his own staff,” Ms Tame writes.

“Clearly, it has been nothing but lip service. His actions speak volumes that drown out his every word.”

She said Mr Porter’s elevation betrayed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “chilling apathy towards survivors” and and called it a clear “abuse of power”.

“There is no way this decision was accidental. It is a transparently deliberate, definitive statement that reeks of abuse of power and a blatant disregard of the people,” she writes.

Ms Tame mentions a meeting with members of the federal government just last week, which she said she felt had been productive. However, the return of Mr Porter proved that not much had been effectively learnt, she writes.

“Amid a burgeoning, pre-eminent mass awakening to the endemic issue of sexual abuse, this decision marks a proverbial slap in the face of our entire nation,” she writes.


“In light of my own experience, it’s hard to process how an accused rapist – albeit one who will never face prosecution – could be offered one of the highest positions of power in the country by none other than our nation’s leader himself.”

“It isn’t just Porter’s character that’s in question here, it’s the morality of our current leadership.”

She ended her piece by accusing Mr Morrison of showing a “chilling apathy towards survivors”.

“This appointment is an insult to all survivors, and indeed the whole country. It reinforces the idea that accused predators are too often protected, feeding into the already crippling fear of victims and bystanders. It is an act of emboldening perpetrators,” she writes.

“My heart breaks at the thought of survivors still living in silence, looking to our leaders for hope.”


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See also: scomo should pay...



fool's gold...


from Paul Bongiorno


Rarely, if ever, has a Prime Minister’s rallying call to the nation been more self-defeating.

Just two months ago Scott Morrison was assuring the nation “it’s not a race” when the supply of vaccines missed targets and the virus only seemed to be forcing Labor-governed Victoria into draconian lockdowns.

Now in an “exclusive” opinion piece in The Australian with Coalition-governed New South Wales in a prolonged lockdown that is failing to contain the “far more infectious Delta strain” Mr Morrison has dramatically changed his tune.


We are now told “vaccination is the gold medal we aspire to” and that “all the nation needs is you”.

The race is on and its success to beat the virus depends on every Australian to make sense of the ever changing, conflicting and confusing messages coming particularly from the federal government and not made any better by its Coalition colleagues running the “Premier State”.

Showing all the skill and chutzpah of a highly paid marketing guru’s copywriter, the PM tells us that he and his family has been inspired “by watching the extraordinary performance of our athletes in Tokyo”.

Mr Morrison distils their achievement down to their “honesty, sincerity and passion” where “you just push through life’s trials and get on with it”.

Sure athletes need all that dedication to push through the pain barrier, but without skill, competence and planning they would literally fall at the first hurdle.

Our Prime Minister may well take his inspiration from a gold medal winner like the amazing freestyle BMX champion Logan Martin, but it’s a pity for the nation that he did not show the same relentless dedication and initiative to the task the Australian people had entrusted to him.

Martin realised to achieve his Olympic dream he needed to replicate the arena in Tokyo in his backyard.

He bought a property big enough to hold the massive fixture and spent $70,000 constructing it. He then spent hours perfecting his routines.


We are now nearly 18 months into the pandemic and the nation still has only one dedicated quarantine facility, in the Northern Territory.

Dragged kicking and screaming by the premiers of Queensland and Victoria, the federal government is still only drawing up blueprints for dedicated quarantine facilities in Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Queensland the Commonwealth government rejected the offer of a purpose-built facility near Toowoomba on seemingly spurious grounds.

The site, like the one near Darwin, has an airport capable of taking the big charter jets that deliver returning citizens to Australia and further it is just a 40-minute medevac helicopter ride from Royal Brisbane Hospital.

There is also the nearby, well-equipped Toowoomba public hospital.

It is no coincidence that the latest outbreaks have been tracked down to yet more leakage from the far from fit-for-purpose hotel quarantine, even if we concede a 1 per cent failure rate, those 28 failures have led to the disruptions that keep recurring and that have shut down two of our major cities again.

The Morrison government has shown no urgency, let alone the sort of initiative to deliver the gold medal performance the PM is urging on the rest of us.

His attempt to share the blame for the national crisis with every Australian is transparently feeble.

Vaccine policy specialist Dr Katie Attwell told ABC TV “the responsibility for the rollout rests with our executive government,” she said.

“It does rest with the Prime Minister and his team.”

Mr Morrison appears to agree with her.

He says he “takes responsibility for the early setbacks in our vaccination program,” but ever the salesman he adds he also “takes responsibility for getting them fixed and that we are now matching world-best rates”.

He nominates “one million doses a week” to support the claim, but it’s difficult to know by what contortion he claims it is world best practice when, for example the United States at its peak was rolling out 4.18 million doses a day and last week had a daily average of 615,000.

On Monday Sky News reported from Western Sydney that people heeding the premier and Prime Minister’s calls to get the jab were being turned away when pharmacies ran out of vaccine supplies.

It is somewhat curious that Mr Morrison used an “exclusive” newspaper opinion piece for his national call to arms, but some Liberals are grateful he didn’t take the cringeworthy Olympic comparisons to a nationally televised address – because it would only invite ridicule.

Labor’s national president, former treasurer Wayne Swan took to Twitterto blast the effort.

He said “our shameless PM should not be using our proud and dedicated athletes as a human shield to camouflage his incompetence in securing and delivering vaccines”.

The PM says the gold medal he now aspires to is getting 80 per cent of the population aged over 16 vaccinated by the end of the year.

To achieve that he will have to put in a better performance than the one he has so far.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics


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pragmatic to get the right outcomes...








taming tame?

Earlier this week the Morrison Government announced that Industry Minister Christian Porter would be Acting Leader of the House, a senior parliamentary role, in the absence of Defence Minister Dutton who is in Covid quarantine.  Predictably , the decision to temporarily elevate Mr Porter has led to outrage on social media and a highly critical opinion piece by Australian of the Year Grace Tame in the Nine newspapers.


Ms Tame argues that because Mr Porter has been the subject of an allegation of rape it is insulting to victims of sexual abuse to promote him to what is a functional role in managing government business in the House of Representatives. The allegations are unsubstantiated (because the alleged complainant is sadly deceased). And while politically Mr Morrison’s move to appoint Mr Porter might be foolish, it is the nature of the objection by Ms Tame that is troubling.

According to Ms Tame, if Prime Minister Morrison’s “recent rhetoric about wanting to support assault survivors and protect women’s safety was indeed true, he would surely go to any lengths possible to ensure there was not an accused rapist amongst his own staff. Clearly, it has been nothing but lip service. His actions speak volumes that drown out his every word. And now, not only has Porter been permitted to remain in office, he’s been temporarily elevated. His circumstances are steeped in the protective privileges of a patriarchal Parliament. There is no way this decision was accidental. It is a transparently deliberate, definitive statement that reeks of abuse of power and a blatant disregard of the people.”

To be blunt, Ms Tame’s attitude assumes any person who is alleged to have done something wrong should be cast out of their position into the wilderness.  It also assumes that the mere making of an allegation should be given such weight that, despite the fact it can never be proven one way or the other because of the absence of one of the parties, the person accused of the wrongdoing is not fit to hold any office.


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To be blunt, Greg Barns is blowing bubbles in the wrong direction… The whole Porter case has been hidden under the carpet by Scott Morrison. This case deserves a full investigation. Someone killed herself, mostly due to delays in police investigations. Should she be alive, the ball would be very much in her favour…. The public deserves to see the full documents written by the alleged victim making the accusations. That there was no such investigation can be seen as a smokescreen of political expediency. That the “defence arguments” of the ABC be suppressed shows the smoke, indicative of a fire somewhere in legalese land. The decent thing for any politician in Porter’s shoes is to demand a full inquiry into the allegations and demonstrate that it was impossible, improbable and unlikely for him/her to have perpetrated the alleged offence. And no, Porter has not BEEN CLEARED of anything because he was never judged and no-one has had the opportunity to get or see the justice system involved. This could be what the defamation case was about: avoid a full investigation to which the public is entitled to of its representatives. Until a FULL INVESTIGATION (like that of Salmon in Scotland) is done and Porter has cleared the bar, he should refrain from accepting “promotions” and the Scomo government should refrain from offering him “promotions”. This was the point made by Grace Tame.


Our view.



barista vs barrister...


By Hal Colebatch


Greg Barns has evidently found Pearls and Irritations a suitable venue for exercising his skills as a barrister – that is, making a good case for someone (or something).  One of these skills is, of course, ignoring the factors that don’t support your argument.  This doesn’t matter in court, where there is another barrister employed to put the opposite argument, but readers of Pearls and Irritations have to work out for themselves what the corrective might be, and what they would conclude about the argument.


In his piece published on the 12th of August, Barns insists that a liberal would not be opposed to public health measures to control the Covid outbreak, since no individual has the right to harm others, as long as they included ‘nuance’ and ‘protection for individual rights’.  It is not clear how this would affect Covid restrictions, but appears to mean the inclusion of ‘opt-out’ clauses.

But the key fact about Covid (and particularly the Delta variant) is that it can be asymptomatic.  In other words, you may contract the virus, and harm others by passing it on to them, without even realising that you have the virus and that you are spreading it to others.  So the appropriate public health measure is for everyone to wear a face mask when in contact with others, so that they do not spread the virus un wittingly.

There is a demand that governments make this obligatory – and this infuriates some, who see it as an infringement on their liberty.  Presumably Greg Barns would argue that the people who don’t want to wear a mask should be able to ‘opt out’ of this requirement, and retain their previously-unchallenged right to make other people sick – not that they put it like this.

What would make more sense for Barns to argue is to accept (with JS Mill) that people do not have the right to infect others, and should not go into public places (like streets, shops, or bars) unless they can be sure that they won’t – by masking, testing, or vaccinating.  If they don’t want to take these steps to guarantee that they’re not harming others, they can do their shopping on-line, have it delivered – and make sure that everyone else in the household observes the same rules.  This is perfectly practicable, but people don’t like it because it restricts their freedom – and they want to have freedom without taking responsibility for what they do with it.  What does Barns say to them ?

A week earlier (5 August), Barns had commented on Grace Tame’s criticism of Scott Morrison’s decision to appoint Christian Porter Acting Leader of the House in the absence (Covid-induced isolation) of Peter Dutton. 

Tame had focused on the symbolic significance of the appointment: what message was conveyed to women by the appointment, as leader of government business, of someone accused of a sexual assault ?  Barns managed to misperceive this as a demand for discrimination in employment (Porter was already employed, and this continued).

Barns implied that Porter was somehow a victim, since he had not been convicted by a court.  Well, this often happens – e.g. Jake Davison, who shot five people (including a three-year-old) in the UK last week before shooting himself.  Sometimes, the killer is shot by police.  In any case, we manage to work it out without as court decision.  The reason Porter has not been charged is that his alleged victim, after years of anguish, took her own life.  But the coroner is still inquiring into the case, so it has not disappeared from view, nor has the problem it raises for governing

Barns also failed to mention that the appointment was unnecessary: David Gillespie had been appointed Deputy Leader of the House and paid for this; he could presumably deputise for Dutton, particularly with the IT at his command.  But Morrison, who thinks of little other than partisan advantage, decided that giving Christian Porter a little boost might appeal to the hard right in the coalition, and to voters inclined to vote for One Nation.  So Tame was correct: it was about political messaging, not discrimination in employment, and she was right in discerning the message for women (and anyone who cares about the place of gender in governing).

That Barns can’t see this might be explained in two ways.  One is ambulance-chasing: as a barrister (i.e. a small businessman), he can see that where there’s an anti-discrimination case, there are fees.  The other is collective advocacy (as a Criminal Justice Spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance): if you want justice, you need lawyers – and you then get stuck with whatever the lawyers say is just.  If a court (i.e. the lawyers) can’t conclude that it happened (because the victim killed herself), then it didn’t happen, and the man is ‘innocent’.  (Scottish courts are a bit more canny: they can conclude ‘Not Proven’.)  But in Australia, you’re in the clear.

After a carer studying governing, that’s how I see it.  But everyone has to decide how it makes sense to them.


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