The Politics    Friday, March 12, 2021

‘Relevant discussions’

By Rachel Withers

Image of Attorney-General Christian Porter. Image via ABC News

Attorney-General Christian Porter. Image via ABC News

What kind of discussions might James Hooke have had with Christian Porter?

An ex-boyfriend and close friend of the woman who accused Attorney-General Christian Porter of rape has revealed that he had “relevant discussions” with the woman as early as 1988, and other outlets have reported – marking the first time anyone has confirmed that the woman disclosed her alleged rape decades ago. Macquarie Group managing director James Hooke – the man referred to in extracts from her diaries where she deliberates over who to tell – said in a statement that he has “clear recollections” of “relevant discussions” he had with the woman over the years from mid 1988 until her death, as well as of those he had with Porter in the early to mid ’90s, though he has not revealed the substance of any of those discussions. Hooke, who says Porter is entitled to the presumption of innocence under criminal law, supports an investigation of the non-criminal aspects of the matter, and has offered to cooperate with any inquiry, saying he is willing to testify under oath.

Hooke joins a growing list of individuals who say the woman told them of the alleged rape in some form or another. But he’s the first person to reveal that he has recollections of relevant conversations with Porter that he wants to share.

Hooke chose to come forward today in response to questions from numerous journalists, after News Corp outlets revealed his full name. While his revelation of “relevant discussions” with the woman are huge, we already knew from her own diary entries that she had believed for decades that she had been raped. What is bigger here is Hooke’s revelation of “relevant discussions” with Porter, who he has known for 30 years.

What did Hooke discuss with Porter in 1992 and throughout the mid ’90s? That’s for him to know (and willingly share with an inquiry, under oath) and for us to wonder about – Hooke doesn’t say. Did Hooke confront a twenty-something Porter over what he was said to have done to his “dear friend” and sometimes girlfriend? This would seem to contradict Porter’s claims that no one had ever put the allegations to him before. Or does Hooke refer to other kinds of “relevant discussions” with Porter – a man who university peers say was “deeply sexist and actually misogynist in his treatment of women, in the way he spoke about women”; who frequently made off-colour comments in the law students’ magazine (“our opposition’s case had more holes than Snow White’s hymen,” the most infamous); and who allegedly propositioned the woman at a dinner in 1994, saying “you owe me one”, a comment she took to be a reference to the alleged attack?

Hooke, also a trained lawyer, must have some fairly significant information to share. He writes that he had made himself known to NSW Police, acknowledging that they were now unable to interview him on the matter, but is willing to share information under oath at an inquiry like the one into the conduct of Dyson Heydon. He’s careful not to share too much with the media here, which he believes is not the “optimal forum” in which to investigate the matter. It’s not, but it will remain the only forum until another avenue presents itself. Pressure is mounting for an inquiry, pressure that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has continued to resist, but it’s likely to grow even more intense with parliament returning next week. How much longer can he – and Porter – withstand it?

“There is still time to go back to the drawing board, get your crayons out and work out a better plan for tourism and the aviation industry for Australia.”

Dubbo’s Mayor Ben Shields joins the chorus of people criticising the government’s destination choices for its half-price flights scheme. Do crayons work on colour-coded spreadsheets?

“It’s not a race.”

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy says Australia can take its time on the vaccine rollout, while economists argue that delays may squander our hard work and threaten our recovery.

tHe RuLe oF LaW
The prime minister has declared Christian Porter “innocent” and said any inquiry into the allegations of sexual assault would undermine the rule of law. Rachel Withers on what exactly the rule of law means, and whether it’s a sufficient justification to stop an inquiry from going ahead.

The number of Australians who have been vaccinated so far, as the government walks back its earlier target of 4 million vaccinations by April.

“Federal trade minister Dan Tehan confirmed he would push back against the EU’s move, revealing Australia would argue through the World Trade Organization for an alternative plan to slash tariffs on more than 50 environmental goods and services.”

Australia plans to oppose the EU’s newly legislated carbon levies by demanding tariffs on wind turbines, solar panels and other green industries be eliminated. The US and the UK have indicated they will follow the EU in enacting levies on countries with weak emissions laws.

The list

“While wrestling can seem like the last bastion of un-PC entertainment (over the past few years I’ve witnessed AIDS jokes and discriminatory slurs used as jovial insults), the audience demographic has also broadened significantly as promotions have teamed up with breweries, music venues and city bars, making the chasm between old-school and new-school attitudes less easy to ignore. Just as the Australian music industry had its take on #MeToo – the #MeNoMore campaign – wrestling has its #SpeakingOut hashtag.”

“Robyn Nevin’s performance as Pomsel was as mesmerising as it was demanding. From her light and convincing German accent (eat your heart out, Meryl Streep), to the stiff-bodied way she pottered about her aged-care bedroom, to the serviceable clothing, to the constant dabs with a handkerchief at watering eyes and moist mouth, to the momentary lapses of thought, Nevin drew us in. The simplicity of her delivery, impeccably directed by festival co-director Neil Armfield, together with the simplicity of the set, provided an unimpeded engagement with the 90-minute monologue.”

“Việt Thanh Nguyễn isn’t sentimental about his artistic ambition. ‘Art can accomplish a lot, but it cannot change the world without the partnership of social movements,’ he says. ‘And likewise, I don’t think social and political movements can change the world without the ruptures of imagination that are possible in art.’ His latest novel, The Committed, is a glorious rupture in the American literary landscape. Drifting through the streets of Paris, Nguyễn’s nameless, sharp-shooting, unreliable narrator from Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathiser returns as a revolutionary without a revolution, to confess his sins and to contend with his ghosts.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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