My take on the current Christine Holgate saga is a bit pendulum-like. I thought, and think, that the furore over the watches was idiotic. This was a woman earning over $2.5 million a year who gave out a bonus to some colleagues for stellar work. So? If she’d paid them three times as much in cash no one would have blinked. And having forced her out the Board of Australia Post spent what, half a million dollars, on a recruitment agency to find her replacement. On any cost-benefit analysis this is bonkers. So Holgate, I thought, really did get screwed over by the PM and this government and by a pusillanimous board.
And then Holgate pulled out the ‘I’m a victim because I’m a woman’ card. Bang. I’m out. She lost every ounce of sympathy I had for her, and I had a lot. Look, the PM didn’t sell her down the river because she was a woman. He sold her down the river because he lacks a solid, principled core – one that treats the presumption of innocence as worth fighting for and fighting to win for. It was the absence of that core belief that saw him stand by and say nothing about how former High Court judge Dyson Heydon was treated – remembering Heydon never got a chance to cross-examine the complaining women nor many other basic procedural entitlements. It was the absence of that core belief that saw the PM condemn those SAS soldiers before they’d been convicted of anything in any court. (Who does that to frontline soldiers who risk their lives for us?) And it was that lack of commitment to the presumption of innocence that saw him, in effect, throw Christian Porter under a bus. In my view there was no real conflict in Porter staying on as AG. He would have had to step back from Federal Court appointments until his defamation trial was over, but that’s it. He wouldn’t be reopening defamation law reform. So where, precisely, was the conflict? And if you think there was some sort of ill-defined conflict of interest, against my view, why did the PM take him out of his other two ministerial roles? Sure, he gave him a figleaf cabinet spot but it was plain to all that Morrison had sold him down the river.
This is not a man who fights the culture wars – think free speech; think cancel culture; think wokeness. Heck, ScoMo says as much openly. And not standing up (really, really standing up) for our amazing inheritance of the presumption of innocence is just another cog in that wheel. Were I PM, I would have said that Porter gets the presumption of innocence; the allegations are orders of magnitude less plausible than those against Bill Shorten or Joe Biden (neither of which rile up the Twitter mob lefties); and then I would have left him in all of his offices.
But notice something about those other people Morrison threw under a bus Christine? They all have a Y chromosome. I really liked the way you did your job, Christine. I like the fact you’re fighting the way you were treated. But you’ve ruined it for me with the way you’ve played the cancel culture victim card. You earned more money in one year than most Australians earn in a decade, probably two. Loads more. On no planet are or were you a victim. And if you know anything about this PM of ours who seems unwilling to stand up for any small ‘l’ liberal values or take a stand on any culture war battles you’d realise he sold you down the river because it was convenient at the time. ‘Pragmatic’ is his word of choice. Short-termism might be more apt. Let’s face it. He’s not a fighter.
It had nothing to do with your double XX chromosomes, Ms Holgate. And the fact you’re saying it did has lost you all my otherwise considerable sympathies.
James Allan is Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.