Why Christian Porter should stand down today

Today across Australia, a litany of companies, charities and workplaces will mark International Women's Day in various ways. There will be breakfast panels, office morning teas and rallying speeches served up over lunch.

Yet all of these celebrations could be eclipsed by none other than Christian Porter, were he to make the ultimate statement this International Women's Day by announcing his decision to stand down.

He won't, of course, but he should. At a time when the issue of sexual assault is dominating the national agenda - and the eyes of many Australian women are fixed firmly on our federal government - it would be a powerful statement from the Attorney-General.

 

Now you may well protest - as Porter has himself - that for him to do so would set a dangerous legal precedent. You may feel inclined to remind me that he is quite rightfully entitled to the presumption of innocence. You might also be fed up with what you consider to be a trial by media.

But this is not a legal discussion. The Attorney-General is not facing criminal charges. And the media has no judicial powers. Journalists cannot and do not try cases, determine convictions or hand down sentences.

So my call for Porter to resign is not about legalities. I don't know if he is guilty of these accusations, and neither do you.

It is about symbolism. Imagine the impact for survivors of sexual abuse if the nation's first law officer were to make the brave and selfless decision to stand down.

Sarrah Le Marquand, editor-in-chief of Stellar and Body+Soul magazines.
Sarrah Le Marquand, editor-in-chief of Stellar and Body+Soul magazines.

Events of the past few weeks have suddenly seen the #MeToo movement gain traction in Australia, almost three and a half years after revelations about Harvey Weinstein's serial offences first set in motion a global reckoning.

This belated mobilisation of the women of Australia is almost certainly not a development either Porter or Scott Morrison would have anticipated finding themselves confronting in the first weeks of 2021. Why would they? Nobody did.

At a moment in history when the importance of listening to those who come forward with allegations is becoming more widely understood, the most responsible course of action for Porter to take - even while he passionately maintains his innocence - would be to stand down.

And what better time than International Women's Day to use the immense profile and power his position has afforded him by relinquishing that very position in a display of support, empathy and true leadership?

Sarrah Le Marquand is the editor-in-chief of Stellar and Body+Soul magazines and also a panellist on In My View on Sky News, where this appeared as an editorial.

Originally published as Why Christian Porter should stand down today


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