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Newsletter 378

Published February 22, 2021
Brittany Higgins has difficulty swallowing the PM's 'sad & sincere' routine

What’s the biggest news of the week? I suppose it has to be the story about a Liberal Party staffer being raped in Parliament House two whole years ago. The fact that it took so long for this incident to make headlines raises the obvious question: What sort of culture sweeps a sexual assault under the carpet and makes it clear to the victim that she better keep quiet if she wants to keep a job? Not in so many words, of course.

The whole saga reflects badly on everyone. Brittany Higgins was pretty dumb to get drunk and put herself into a compromising situation, but this doesn’t mitigate the offence. The Minister, Linda Reynolds, looks culpable if this happened on her watch and she allowed the story to be covered up. Not a great advertisement for the Sisterhood, Linda. Worst of all, however, is our Dear Leader, Scummo, who is now acting horrified that such a thing could happen, and calling for women to be treated with respect. Oh yeah. Both Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have expressed their incredulity that the Prime Minister supposedly heard nothing about the assault at the time. If the PM’s Office was informed – and it would be extraordinary if it wasn’t – someone decided that the boss should not be told so he would have plausible deniablity should this sordid business ever come to light.

Either way, it argues for an utterly rotten culture – indeed, a logical extension of what we’ve seen with Angus Taylor, Bridget McKenzie, Peter Dutton, Stuart Robert and others, who have all breached ethical standards (and even legal standards), and have not had to endure any punishment from the PM. The entire Scummo regime is based on Plausible (or even Implausible) Deniability, Lack of Transparency and Accountability, and constant Cover-Ups. I put these terms in caps because they could be used as category headings for several long lists.

It would be naïve to imagine that Labor and other denominations don’t have their problems with sexual harrassment and similar workplace issues but when something as nasty as a rape occurs in a Minister’s office it’s not acceptable to think mainly in terms of the political fall-out it might generate. This, as ever, is the chief consideration of our God-bothering PM, who swears he is being “as honest and open as [he] can be.” This is probably the truth. The only problem is that his capacity for honesty and openness doesn’t seem to extend very far. Our leader may be an evangelical but he closely resembles the officials of the Catholic Church who were willing to cover up generations of sexual abuse cases.

At present this case seems to have a long way to run, and Scummo’s honesty and openness might yet be subjected to a few severe tests.

The art column this week goes back to the commercial galleries, with a sensational show by Nyapanyapa Yunupingu at Ros Oxley’s, along with work by Michael Bell at the Flinders Street Gallery, and Solomon Kammer at Yavuz. I give Nyapanyapa star billing because she is an artist working at the peak of her powers. I won’t elaborate as it’s all in the review.

I’m also publishing a second review this week of an exhibition called Thresholds, by Julia Davis and Lisa Jones, at the Tin Sheds Gallery. I actually wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago, but ever-present space considerations at the newspaper meant it was held over, finally getting a run in Wednesday’s Arts section.

Finally, the film review looks at Minari, an excellent new American film in which most of the dialogue is in Korean. While the Golden Globes wanted to classify it as a “foreign film” this was an outrageous suggestion. The entire story is set in Arkansas and the director, Isaac Chung, was born in Colorado. It’s a drama of difference and assimilation that should set audiences thinking. Remember “thinking”? It’s what we did before social media came along.