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Sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that reveal the most about us

Opinion

It is said that evil prospers when good men do nothing. The sex scandals currently paralysing our federal parliament are proof of that, writes Madonna King

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It’s funny, when you lose someone you love, that their advice keeps popping up years and even decades later.

“Always have private health cover,’’ my father said on his death bed. And I’ve never questioned it. Too young to understand it at the time, I dutifully signed up as soon as I could, and have never missed a payment.

Perhaps it’s just a connection with someone I lost too young. But 40 years later, private health cover is an expense that never gets pruned.

Mum’s advice was steadfast too. As a teenager, drawn in sometimes by the silly antics of friends, she would ask the same question. “If X put her head in the fire, would you?’’

Her point was simple: we are all responsible for our own actions. And if she was still here, she’d be pointing at the crisis enveloping the Morrison Government and saying the same.

Christian Porter is innocent. The law dictates that. But he remains responsible for how he deals with the heart-breaking allegations levelled against him.

Why wouldn’t he read a dossier of accusations levelled against him? Why wouldn’t he contact those pushing the accusations, to find out the details of what he was facing? Why wouldn’t he reach out to the family of his accuser? Why wouldn’t he contact his debating friends, who were with him in January 1988, to find out what they knew?

The lack of interrogation, by a former Crown prosecutor, leaves me with more questions than answers.

So does the response of the prime minister Scott Morrison. I’m in a minority here, but I think it was good he consulted his wife over the Brittany Higgins’ accusations, and only wish he’d also see fit to consult his daughters and those in the school pick-up zone, and his daughters’ teachers and one million other females in how he deals with this crisis.

But on any public judgement, his leadership has been shabby. This is the leader of our nation, at a time when one of his top lieutenants has been accused of rape, when his taxpayer-funded workplace has been mired in sexual abuse claims, and when hundreds of school girls claim they have also been subject to rape and sexual abuse.

And his response? Silence. Support for the Attorney-General. The promise of a quick almost-internal review. And no comment on the revelations that hundreds of young women – some aged as young as 13 – have been victim to sexual abuse and rape at after-school parties and functions.

That’s not taking responsibility. That’s hiding from it.

But the responsibility argument doesn’t end there. The advice of the ADF boss Angus Campbell that cadets should avoid the four As – alcohol, out late at night, being alone and being attractive – is just bewildering.

Perhaps he meant the advice for both male and female cadets, but in the current climate, the advice landed in the lap of females. Does he really believe that females should not make themselves attractive?

Why? Why? Why? Is that because it makes them more susceptible to attack?

For many, those comments are akin to victim shaming. You’re attractive, and you invite trouble.

Angus Campbell’s other advice – against alcohol, being out late and being alone – is more understandable and equally applicable to men and women.

We all need to take responsibility for our actions, and walking through a park at 1am or being so drunk at a party that we can’t make good decisions is not advisable – for women AND men.

But to suggest, even remotely, that women encourage sexual assault by what they wear, or how much they drink or what parties they attend – as many are doing – is as ignorant as it is wrong.

And that’s what’s simmering underneath this public debate. My email in-tray is testimony to that.

But why is a 13-year-old at a party?

She was drunk – how does she know she didn’t consent?

Did her parents know she was drinking, at 14?

I don’t care. Our teen girls shouldn’t drink to the point they are sick. Neither should our sons. Our girls shouldn’t walk through a park, at 1am, believing they are safe. Neither should our sons.

But that’s not the issue here. No girl – irrespective of her age, state of sobriety, or geographic location – asks to be raped.

And the last week has shown an inability for our leaders to grasp that. And on the eve of international’s women’s day, that’s just heartbreaking.

For girls. For women. And for all those good men and boys – in government and companies and schools – who are caught up in this maelstrom.

 

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