‘Sick and tired’: MP blows up over Porter
A Liberal senator and a Labor MP clashed during ABC's Q&A on Thursday night over a question about the historical rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter.
On Wednesday, Mr Porter revealed himself as the minister at the centre of a rape claim involving a 16-year-old girl in Sydney in 1988, choosing to waive his anonymity in order to publicly and vehemently deny the allegation.
The Attorney-General has never been charged and police confirmed there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed with an investigation, labelling the matter "closed".
The subject caused tension on Q&A when an audience member asked whether the panel thought Prime Minister Scott Morrison should launch an independent inquiry into the allegations against Mr Porter.
Queensland National Party Senator Susan McDonald threw her support behind Mr Porter, saying she felt "deeply" for the woman and her family but that the justice system must be adhered to.
"We do have a system of justice in this country. We do have a police service that is well resourced and the most capable of understanding whether or not evidence needs to go to trial. And they have closed the matter," Senator McDonald said.
"I don't think that this is an easy subject but we can't have a situation where allegations equate to guilt. And I think that the minister has made a full statement and I think that we need to some justice in the law and the rules of the land, because otherwise, you know, do we back a kangaroo court and a court of public opinion?"
Fellow panellist and Western Australia Labor MP Anne Aly, who appeared less than impressed by Senator McDonald's stance, cut in by asking: "What about justice for the victim?".
The Queensland senator continued with her comments, claiming anyone who has people in their lives who have been "unjustly accused" of something similar "want them to have the right of reply".
Ms Aly was quick to respond to Senator McDonald's comments, once again asking about whether the alleged victim deserves justice.
"We keep talking about justice for the accused. What about justice for the victim?" she said, to a round of cheering and applause from the audience.
"I am infuriated by this because I'm sick and tired of the lip service that we hear in parliament about hearing victims' voice, about listening to women, about respect for women, and right now is a moment."
Ms Aly said it was time for the Prime Minister to show leadership and take action when alleged victims come forward.
"What did he do? He came out and he said, 'Well, I have asked him if he did it and he said no, and that's enough for me.' And then suddenly you've got all of these men invoking justice, justice, justice," she said.
Ms Aly said it was up to Mr Morrison to establish an independent inquiry into the allegations against Mr Porter, saying police not pursuing the matter does not preclude the PM from undertaking an inquiry.
"That inquiry will either exonerate Christian Porter and prove his innocence, as he is - as he is saying, that he is innocent, or it will prove otherwise. Either way, this is a serious, serious allegation. It needs to be treated seriously," she said.
It wasn't the only time during Q&A where Senator McDonald's comments irked the other panellists.
Earlier in the show, the panellists were discussing recent reports that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds called alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins a "lying cow".
Nearly three weeks ago, Ms Higgins revealed to news.com.au that she had allegedly been raped by a senior staff member in Senator Reynolds' office while working for her.
That same day, the Defence Minister described her as a "lying cow" in the open-plan office, but said she was not referring to the alleged rape and instead her account of what occurred and the support she was offered after the alleged incident.
Senator McDonald defended Senator Reynolds on Thursday night, calling her "an incredibly compassionate woman and a great leader".
Senator McDonald claimed the last few weeks since the rape allegations came to light had been "incredibly" tough for her colleague.
"I think what her behaviour demonstrates is she is very human. I know that I've said things that I regret and she has apologised to her staff for the words she used," Senator McDonald said.
"I do think the process of Parliament and the performance of the Senate is incredibly tough and she's a very kind and decent person who was caught saying something that she has said later that she regretted."
Once again, Senator McDonald's comments didn't get much support from the other panellists, with news.com.au's National Political Editor Samantha Maiden issuing a blunt reply.
"Well, to be honest, there is nothing human or compassionate about calling an alleged rape victim 'a lying cow'," she said, prompting cheers from the audience.
Ms Maiden noted that Senator Reynolds claimed she wasn't directly referring to the rape allegations with her comments.
"But I will tell you who had a bad week in the office - it was the staffer who got [allegedly] raped. Not Linda Reynolds. And she should answer to Brittany Higgins for those remarks. And she hasn't."
Senator Reynolds is now facing defamation action over her comments about Ms Higgins, with the former Liberal staffer's lawyers issuing a legal demand for her to apologise.
According to The Australian, Ms Higgins' lawyers branded the remark as a "distasteful character assassination" and are demanding the senator publicly withdraw the comment.
It comes after Ms Higgins told news.com.au that the revelations about the slur had hit her hard and left her distressed.
"The comments made by Minister Reynolds are incredibly hurtful,'' she said.
"I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable.
"It's just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that exists behind closed doors in Parliament House."
Originally published as 'Sick and tired': MP blows up over Porter