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.”
Labor MP Tanya Plibersek backed Ms Tame, telling the House of Representatives via video that: “When Australian of the Year Grace Tame speaks, it’s important that we listen”.
When Australian of the Year Grace Tame speaks, it’s important that we listen.
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) August 4, 2021
“Serious allegations were made against The Leader of the House [Mr Porter]. The Prime Minister has consistently refused an independent inquiry,” Ms Plibersek said.
“When he was attorney General, the Leader of the House did nothing about a major report into sexual harassment, other than to allow it to gather dust on his desk for more than a year,” she added.
“What are victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment supposed to make of the Prime Minister’s decision to promote the Member for Pearce now?”
- For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 131 114