THE EMBARRASSMENT of rape allegations Bill Shorten thought were behind him six weeks ago has resurfaced, with his accuser appearing in today’s newspapers; the development suggests the matter will not go away, and comes as Labor — under his “leadership” — has been party to the sanctioning of unlawful actions amid swirling accusations of union misconduct. It has been a bad week for Labor. Shorten should reconsider his position.
For someone whose sense of entitlement to the Prime Ministership of this country runs as strongly as Bill Shorten’s, then this week must surely rank as one of the worst weeks of his career.
Murdoch titles across Australia are today carrying a story featuring the woman at the centre of rape allegations against Bill Shorten that date back to a Labor youth conference near Geelong in 1986, Police investigations into which were abandoned in August without charges being laid owing to “there (being) no reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Readers know that I am no fan of Bill Shorten, and I regard the vapid and banal cant that represents his “leadership” of the ALP to be virtually beneath contempt; at the time the Police investigation was discontinued I published a piece advocating Shorten’s resignation anyway, for so bad is his idea of “leadership” that there is plenty to justify him falling on his sword even in the absence of any allegation of sexual misconduct.
Today it seems Shorten is suffering the worst of both worlds; the week has already seen the ALP, under Shorten’s watch, leap headlong into an undertaking that whichever way you carve it sees Labor sanctioning illegal acts, and the reappearance of his accuser strongly suggests the rape allegations are set to cause him problems for at least the foreseeable future.
Rightly or wrongly — or to use Labor’s jargon, perhaps that should be “fairly or unfairly” — perception in politics is often far more potent than reality, assuming they are not one and the same, and whilst Shorten may have no criminal case to answer over the accusation of rape, the story may well prove vastly different in the court of public opinion if today’s interview with his accuser is anything to go by.
The woman at the centre of the allegations is thus far identified by the Murdoch press as “Kathy,” now a 44-year-old community nurse based on the Gold Coast, and whilst her surname isn’t published with the story, a very clear photograph of her is. It seems inevitable that “Kathy” will be conclusively outed to the public — and at the minimum, within her community — very quickly from here.
At the time her complaint against Shorten was thrown out by Police, there was talk that she would now attempt to pursue him by way of civil proceedings, and today’s feature in News Limited publications would befit an opening salvo in any such enterprise.
Whether she does or not, however, the nature of politics in this country and the way it is reported on makes it almost certain that as much as Shorten would wish otherwise, “Kathy” is probably here to stay: and that the allegations, that six weeks ago might have appeared done and dusted, have really only shown the first inkling of the bad press and unquantifiable political damage they stand to inflict upon him.
It will be telling what action for defamation — if any — is issued by Shorten against “Kathy” and/or the Murdoch press.
Shorten, as Labor’s “leader,” has a responsibility to his own party to safeguard its political interests, to say nothing of his responsibility as the nominal alternative Prime Minister of Australia, and if today’s appearance by “Kathy” begins to deliver up a cascade of poor publicity and/or a drawn out civil lawsuit with obvious public interest ramifications, he ought to ponder the tenability of his position if followed around for months by the protracted regurgitation of sordid details of an alleged sexual attack by his accuser.
Certainly, it would not be a good look. If Shorten is in fact innocent as he claims, then it would not be right or fair either. But the potency of a scandal around sex is always guaranteed to render political damage, and if “Kathy’s” appearance in the media was intended to be a one-off sympathy piece then it is logically more likely that it would have appeared in New Idea or Woman’s Day rather than in mass circulation mastheads that maximise national exposure and political impact.
It’s an ominous political portent for Shorten and his party. Just how driven “Kathy” is to get “justice” will become obvious soon enough.
This comes as the ALP has seen fit to join in an atrocious and despicable political witch hunt, with Shorten’s party combining with the
Communist Party Greens to permit the Palmer United Party to establish its wide-ranging Senate inquest into Campbell Newman and his government in Queensland for no other tangible purpose than to avenge Palmer’s sense of having been grievously wronged.
If certain legal action by the Queensland and/or federal governments results in this outrageous attempt to use the Senate to destroy an elected government in the pursuit of a personal vendetta being declared unconstitutional, then Labor will have conspired to institute an illegal investigation; if it isn’t, then by making the exclusion of scrutiny of the Bligh government that preceded Newman’s a condition for the inquiry to operate, Labor will arguably have condoned any illegal conduct such scrutiny might have otherwise uncovered.
Either way, the ALP has shown itself to be a willing party to unlawful activities, and whilst he mightn’t have authorised it personally, the buck — and the responsibility — stops with Shorten as Labor’s “leader.”
And the backdrop to all of this is the steady stream of revelations of dodgy and/or unlawful conduct by unions affiliated to the ALP at the Heydon Royal Commission; on Monday it was more detail about unions taking cash from businesses in return for not engaging in industrial anarchy — this week, the MUA in Western Australia, just a fortnight after disturbingly similar allegations were made against the AWU in Victoria that date from the time Shorten was in charge of the AWU’s Victorian branch.
All in all, the week to date has been a shocker for the ALP, and there’s still two days of it to go.
None of this is remotely conducive to Shorten’s ability to effectively “lead” the ALP, although based on his lacklustre and vacuous offerings in that regard to date it is doubtful as to whether clear air would be of any benefit to the national polity at all, even where the objectives of his own members and supporters are concerned.
And for these and all the other reasons we have discussed in this column before, ad nauseum, perhaps the time to finally contemplate finding a leader free of the odium that seems to follow Shorten wherever he goes is close at hand for the Labor Party, and far too close for Shorten’s comfort.