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1 Mar, 2021 21:03

#MeToo does Australia: Political manipulation around alleged rape wracks government

#MeToo does Australia: Political manipulation around alleged rape wracks government

In classic #MeToo style, the Australian federal government is facing a serious political crisis because of two alleged incidents of rape, one said to have occurred in 1988 and the other in 2019.

That, however, is precisely the situation that has arisen over the past three weeks in Canberra.

The fact that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government finds itself in such a predicament is due to the extraordinary power and irrationality of the #METOO movement, and the seeming inability of politicians to deal with it in a principled manner.

This situation is not peculiar to Australia. The Julian Assange case, the Alex Salmond scandal that is presently engulfing the Scottish parliament, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current troubles in New York are all examples of the same phenomenon.

It is now apparent that the #METOO movement and politics make for an extremely toxic mix that poses a very real threat to liberal democratic politics in the west.

#MeToo at its finest

The current political crisis in Australia arose out of a textbook #METOO operation. The initial complainant, Brittany Higgins, is a millennial female. The alleged perpetrator is a male. The alleged rape took place some time ago, and a complaint to the police was not pursued at the time. Instead, details of the incident were leaked to the media years later, with a view to destroying the alleged perpetrator and anyone associated with him. Further allegations are inevitably made following upon the initial media coverage.

This modus operandi enables the complainant to avoid having her allegations tested, and deprives the alleged perpetrator of a proper opportunity to defend himself. Only if the matter is forced back into the legal system can either of these things happen – as the Alex Salmond case confirms.

When Higgins’ allegations became public, Anthony Albanese, the Labor Opposition leader, cynically decided to use them to attack Prime Minister Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, in whose parliament house office the rape is alleged to have taken place.

Albanese was driven by his inability to otherwise score political points against the government – in fact, his political incompetence and lack of appeal to the electorate provoked moves within the Labor Party before Christmas to depose him as leader.

Not only did Albanese foolishly cast the first #METOO stone, but he has spent the last three weeks trying to fix Morrison with some kind of personal responsibility for the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins – on the basis that Morrison must have known about the incident when it occurred.

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Too apologetic

Morrison made the mistake of not firmly pointing out when the scandal first broke that there was no reason why he should have known, and that he could not have done anything more for Higgins than Senator Reynolds did at the time – namely offer her support and advise her to pursue the matter with the police.

Morrison committed a further error by chastising Senator Reynolds for not having told him of the Higgins incident, and Reynolds herself made the matter worse by apologising to Brittany Higgins, notwithstanding that she did all she could for her at the time.

Higgins’ excuse for not pursuing the matter with police, namely that she would have been sacked if she had, is disputable at best. Senator Reynolds arranged for Higgins to meet with the police herself, and urged her to pursue the matter. In any event, no minister could have possibly got away with sacking a staff member for pursing a complaint of rape with the police and none would have been cruel or foolish enough to try.

Morrison and Senator Reynolds have both paid a heavy price for not standing up to the wave of #METOO hysteria that washed over Canberra in the wake of Higgins’ allegations becoming public – fomented by woke media organisations, in particular the ABC and the Channel 9/Fairfax press.

Brittany Higgins has personally attacked the prime minister, accusing him of using inappropriate terminology and of leaking adverse material about her to the media.

Senator Reynolds broke down in parliament, and late last week fled to hospital “as a precautionary measure,” following “advice from her cardiologist relating to a pre-existing medical condition” – which coincidentally allowed her to avoid further questioning on the Higgins matter. Her career was on the rocks before the current scandal broke, and Reynolds’ political future now looks decidedly bleak. Her lack of resolve has led to her becoming the first political victim of the scandal.

The furore intensified last Friday when, as these things tend to, a further anonymous allegation emerged that an unnamed Morrison cabinet member had raped a woman in 1988 – over 30 years ago. The complainant took her case to the police last year, but tragically committed suicide a few months later before the investigation, held back by Covid-19 lockdowns, could move forward.

The Greens (a party plagued by allegations of sexual assaults of female employees in recent years) insisted that Morrison establish an inquiry into the alleged 1988 rape, and threatened to name the accused minister in parliament.

Albanese demanded that the prime minister must “satisfy himself” that the unnamed cabinet minister was fit to sit in parliament. “I am not trying to politicise this,” Albanese barefacedly told the media at the weekend.

Morrison responded by saying that the unnamed minister “vigorously denied” the historic rape allegation.

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Crude politicking

The involvement of Senate Opposition Leader Penny Wong in this second complaint is somewhat curious. She met with the now-deceased complainant in 2019 and urged her to pursue the matter with the police. She did not, however, inform the prime minister of the matter at the time.

The brazen hypocrisy of Labor and the Greens’ crude politicking could not be more obvious.

Morrison has referred the second complaint to the police and has, quite properly, refused to establish an enquiry into it. It is not for the executive branch of government to enquire into allegations of criminal behaviour, especially in circumstances where the alleged incident took place decades before the alleged perpetrator entered parliament and the complainant is dead.

Inquisitorial executive enquiries should never be used to exclude the rule of law, and anyone accused of a crime (no matter how serious) should not be denied the basic protections afforded by western legal systems.

On Sunday Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson informed the media that she had referred an allegation of rape made against an unnamed Labor member of parliament to the police for investigation.

How Albanese, Wong and the Labor Party will respond to this (also perfectly predictable) revelation is yet to be seen. Albanese said today that he had not yet received any documents relating to the matter. Like the rape allegation made against US President Joe Biden, this allegation will no doubt be discounted by the woke media.

Woke pandering backfires

Albanese, of course, should have expected such a development because the #METOO movement, at its core, is politically neutral – it simply aims to call powerful men to account and destroy them. It’s thanks to people like Albanese, who manipulate it for their own gain, that the movement has become so mired in politics. But if Albanese hopes for any long-term advantage from having stoked the #METOO fires, he is even more lacking in judgment than he appears to be.

Albanese is a typical woke Labor politician, whose electorate is in the heart of inner-city Sydney. At the last election a Greens’ candidate made significant inroads in his seat, compelling Albanese to embrace woke ideologies even more fervently than he had done previously. This explains his recent actions.

But the Labor Party is deeply divided, and its adoption of irrational woke ideologies (especially climate alarmism) has alienated much of its traditional working-class base in recent years – resulting in its poor performance at the past few federal elections. Without reconnecting with that portion of its base, Labor cannot win an election federally.

Albanese’s championing of the #METOO cause may raise his stocks with the inner-city woke elites, but it will only further alienate Labor’s traditional base. Thus, not only is Albanese’s political stand completely unprincipled, it may yet prove to be pragmatically counter- productive for Labor.

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Due process

How, then, should Australian politicians have dealt with these two recent allegations of rape?

Both complainants should have been given whatever support they needed, and advised to pursue their complaints with the police – which is exactly what happened in the Higgins matter.

Politicians should have not involved themselves further, and should never have sought to politicise these matters in the crude fashion that Albanese has done over the past few weeks.

This, in fact, was precisely what happened in 2014 when an allegation of historical rape was made against federal Labor MP (and later party leader) Bill Shorten. The matter was referred to the police, who carried out an investigation and decided not to charge Shorten. The Liberal Party did not raise the matter in parliament, and Shorten’s political career continued unaffected – in fact, he led Labor to defeat at the 2019 federal election.

It is not yet apparent how the current political crisis in Australia will resolve itself (it clearly has a long way to play out, and further allegations may well emerge) but one thing is tolerably clear – unless politicians in western democracies take a principled stand against irrational woke ideologies, they risk provoking political crises that place liberal democracy and its basic values in grave danger.  

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.