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The Informer: Powerful words on a day of very many words

Australian of the Year, Grace Tame. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Australian of the Year, Grace Tame. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It was the press conference that - this week anyway - stopped the nation.

After days of speculation Attorney-General Christian Porter denied a historical rape allegation. He is refusing to stand aside or resign but will take a period of mental health leave.

In short he: denied having sexual relations with the woman; had not read the allegations and only knows what has been published broadly in the media; had not come forward earlier due to a an ongoing NSW Police investigation; believes he has support of the Prime Minister and his colleagues.

"If I stand down from my position as Attorney-General because of an allegation about something that simply did not happen, then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life's work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print," he said.

That hasn't exactly satisfied everyone. Commentators are wondering how he can deny allegations if he has not read them while political opponents and advocacy groups are demanding an independent investigation.

For instance, Australian Women Lawyers has issued a statement calling for an independent inquiry into the various allegations against Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter.

"Until such an investigation is conducted, the question remains as to whether the Attorney is an appropriately fit and proper person to hold that office. This uncertainty undermines the credibility and operation of the Australian legal system given the community's expectation of the legal profession and the Attorney's role in upholding the rule of law."

And as if that wasn't enough, the latest development regarding the death of the woman at the heart of the allegations came from the South Australian coroner David Whittle - after Mr Porter's appearance.

"Yesterday I released the following statement: 'The cause and circumstances of the death are under investigation by SAPOL (South Australian police) on behalf of, and at the direction of, the State Coroner'

"The investigation is continuing and once that investigation has been completed to my satisfaction, I shall determine whether to hold an inquest."

And while the spotlight was on Mr Porter mid-afternoon, Grace Tame ensured the PM was not in the shadows when she delivered a powerful address earlier in the day.

The Australian of the Year, a survivor of child sexual abuse, questioned the prime minister's conscience after his recent handling of sexual assault allegations. Most notably, Ms Tame, was unimpressed with Mr Morrison's anecdote about how his wife encouraged him to frame the allegations "as a father first".

"It shouldn't take having children to have a conscience," Ms Tame told the National Press Club. "And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn't guarantee a conscience."

Powerful words on a day of very many words.

The national discussion makes it an extremely difficult day for survivors of sexual abuse. Don't forget the important numbers: Lifeline on 13 11 14 and 1800Respect on 1800 737 732.

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This story Powerful words on a day of very many words first appeared on The Canberra Times.