The River of Our Times

The number one news story in Australia this week has been the eruption of anger over an anonymous letter which accuses the Attorney-General (Cth) of historic rape back in 1988.

He denies it ever happened and the alleged victim took her own life last year so is no longer in a position to pursue or explicate the matter. The police, apparently, spoke with the alleged victim on a couple of occasions but decided there was insufficient admissible evidence to support a prosecution. We are also told that the last time she spoke with the police the alleged victim decided not to pursue the matter.

At the time of writing, no-one has come forward to claim responsibility for the letter.

Ten years ago, I suspect an anonymous letter making such allegations would have been significantly less newsworthy, but there has been quite a revolution since then. A very good revolution – mostly.

I’ve written before about the centuries – millennia even – during which women have been subjected to the violence, whims or even ownership of men. I am perfectly happy to see this patriarchal milieu wither on the vine and I do understand the role of radical views in achieving any sort of social evolution…

But what I do not want to see is an over-correction – a kind of revenge on current men for the sins of the past.

Because that does seem to be happening in a few subtle and not-so-subtle ways, and the reaction to the Christian Porter case is perhaps an example.

We operate in this country under the rule of law.

The rule of law – meaning everyone is equal under the law – is the number one reason for our stable society where we enjoy personal security, property and political rights more or less undisturbed. This is in massive contrast to most of the rest of the world where cadres, cartels, cabals or subcultures come to dominate at the expense of the majority. Am I right Burma? What do you think North Korea? Somalia? Venezuela? (Oh that’s right, none of you would be allowed to read this.)

These countries (and scores of others) are dominated by the warlord culture – which means only some people have rights, but even that small majority are reliant on the whim of the warlord.

But just because we are lucky enough to live in a country under the rule of law is no reason for smug complacency. The forces of darkness are forever trying to take back control and new warlords are forever vying with the old ones to manoeuvre into pole position.

And the warlords are never individuals these days (with one spectacular exception in America). They are ideas. Isms. Popular movements that capture the zeitgeist and push themselves to the forefront – become major currents in the stream of our culture and sweep all of us along.

As often as not, these ideas are net positive and we all evolve, but they can have negative consequences and I would suggest that the desire to give full support to a victim (laudable as that is) can have consequences that go beyond just the circumstances of any given case.

No-one knows what happened that night between Christian Porter and the alleged victim. Possibly not even Christian Porter as he only knows what happened from his own subjective perspective. Mind you, he claims that sex did not even occur so maybe we’re not even dealing with the vagaries of consent here – which can be the most complex and problematic issue in all of human relations.

But despite the fact that no-one knows what happened, a proportion of the community have already found him guilty, and some will believe him guilty forever – no matter how many enquiries are set up to establish his innocence.

That’s not at all to suggest I think he’s innocent. I wouldn’t have a clue. But I am a lawyer and my highest faith is in the rule of law. It disturbs me greatly to see such a groundswell of opinion against someone – ironically unpopular through his own perceived misogyny and certain other insensitive acts and comments which are now coming home to roost – without any evidence beyond an anonymous third party accusation.

If we truly value the rule of law above everything else (and we really should) then we ought to be sceptical of anonymous accusations and give proper weight to their probative value. To do anything less than that is to surrender to the populist yearnings of those warlords who would seek to send the river of our times in different directions.

Directions which may not suit us.

Anyone who’s read my blog (or literature) over the years will know I am very far from being any kind of Liberal Party supporter – but that’s not the point here. Everyone deserves due process.

Even the Commonwealth Attorney-General.

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