Wednesday, 16 June 2021
I want to outline to anyone listening—and certainly there will be many survivors of sexual assault who have in fact been listening to what's just occurred—that, as folk know, there are unresolved rape allegations against Minister Porter, who's no longer the Attorney-General but remains a minister. The police have not been able to investigate. The Prime Minister has not seen fit to investigate. The Prime Minister asked his mate Mr Porter if there was any truth to the allegations and accepted Mr Porter's word for it. The Prime Minister did not read the dossier of allegations from the victim, which was provided to him. He has simply accepted his mate's version of the story.
Since there is no other avenue to ascertain the truth of what occurred, and since the Prime Minister refuses to call his own inquiry into the fitness of the people he has appointed to be cabinet ministers, I was attempting to introduce a bill. I got so far as to introduce a bill for a commission of inquiry to ascertain whether Christian Porter is fit to remain a cabinet minister, making decisions for the benefit of all Australians. In a virtually unprecedented move, this government blocked that bill from being read a first time. They have stopped the bill in its tracks. They just then denied me leave to even table the explanatory memorandum and second reading speech. This is a government that cannot handle transparency of any sort.
I've now sought leave to introduce the bill a second time, and, once again, the government has denied me leave to do so. This is a government that thrives on secrecy. We all knew this, but this is a new low: to stop a senator from introducing a bill for a matter of transparency that goes to the functioning of this democracy is an absolute outrage. It is an outrage to process and democracy; more so, it is an outrage to survivors of sexual assault everywhere. Earlier in the year, 90,000 people signed a petition and marched on this parliament. The Prime Minister didn't want to talk them then, either, but they signed a petition saying, 'We need an inquiry into Minister Porter's fitness to be a minister of the Crown.'
Many of Kate's friends have been rallying around this issue, and, in fact, Jo Dyer is sitting in the chamber with us now, witnessing this. She was ready to witness the introduction of a bill. Instead, she has witnessed this government blocking the bill from going forward.
Just when you think this government can't sink to new lows, it manages to find a way every single time. They have just stopped a bill from proceeding. I can only think of two other occasions in my 10 years of being in this place that that has happened. It may well have happened on the very odd occasion prior to that time, but it is highly unusual to stop senators introducing bills, particularly bills about process and about making sure that this democracy can function properly, that members of the Australian community can have confidence in the institutions of government and that rape survivors everywhere can feel emboldened to share their stories and seek justice.
The government should be utterly ashamed of themselves, and I want to know who gave the authority to shut this bill down. I want to know if it was just the folks sitting over there or if it was the Prime Minister who issued a decree saying: 'This bill will not proceed. My mate Christian Porter has to stay in the cabinet because he assured me he's innocent, and that's all I need to know.' I want to know who gave the order to shut this bill down. The Australian people deserve to know. Why have you shut this bill down? What is your reasoning? What are you going to do, if not this commission of inquiry, to make sure that justice is served in this case? Will you just have anyone on your cabinet benches? Do those prime ministerial statements of ministerial standards not mean anything? We thought as much, but you've just proved it today.
This is an outrage. Women across the country, decent people across the country, will be horrified that this government is once again shutting down this semblance of a measure of seeking justice. This is nothing but a protection racket for the boys club that is this government and this cabinet. I urge you to reconsider. I'm not going to let this drop. The 90,000 people who signed that petition are not going to let this drop. Fifty-one per cent of the population are not going to let this drop. By all means go to the election with this as your position. I look forward to you being condemned to the dustbin of history and the opposition benches for many years to come. But women deserve better. This country deserves better. Shame on you.