My Geoff Clark comment piece on page one of the Herald online yesterday has provoked howls of protest. So here it is, then your response and my reply. Then, some wonderful pieces by contributors, first on Geoff Clark then on Pat O’Shane.
Who is oppressing who here, Geoff?
By Margo Kingston
What happens now that the ATSIC board has backed the word of its chairman, Geoff Clark, against the word of four women – three Aboriginal and one white – that he raped them?
Let’s be clear on this. Mr Clark has refused to detail why the allegations are false. For example, we don’t know whether he knew these women or had ever met them. We don’t know whether or not he had sex with all or any of them, and if so, his version of what happened.
In other words, he has refused point blank to take their allegations seriously enough to address them. Who is oppressing who here, Geoff?
Instead, we have from Mr Clark two defences. First, that he is a victim of a conspiracy by whites and blacks to destroy him. He gives no detail of this conspiracy.
His second defence is that he has been picked on by the Fairfax press because he is a radical Aboriginal voice. “The fact (is) that my only crime is that I am an Aboriginal and I have had the audacity to question the legitimacy of this country, to question the treatment of Aboriginal people…and I have called for a treaty.”
Whether the women speak the truth or not, it is difficult to doubt their courage in being prepared to be named, and to detail their alleged experiences. There is also little doubt that they are – in the absence of the Fairfax story – powerless voices.
And whether the Fairfax papers should have published the stories or not, it is utter nonsense to accuse them of racial motives. Just ask John Howard whether he thinks The Sydney Morning Herald supports the cause of Aborigines or not – during the Wik debate senior Liberals called the Herald the Aboriginal Morning Herald, and several Aboriginal leaders have told me our relentless campaign for native title rights was an important factor in their favour during the long debate.
There is no doubt that the fracturing of Aboriginal culture since colonisation has seen Aboriginal men assault women as a matter of routine. The reason the previous Labor government funded a separate Aboriginal women’s legal service was that the general Aboriginal legal service would not take on their cases if they were assaulted by black men.
There is no doubt that present-day Aboriginal culture is deeply misogynist, and that the burden of being Aboriginal and a woman is, in many cases, to double the tragedy of their circumstances.
Mr Clark has not sued Fairfax for defamation. If he chooses not to do so, the story will end, unless someone or some group is prepared to fund the women to take their own case for defamation against him.
The deputy chairman of ATSIC, Ray Robinson, said on Tuesday that ATSIC “will support him in whatever legal course of action he should pursue in seeking remedy against the newspaper”. Given ATSIC’s previous performance in such matters, this could mean that it funds a defamation case launched by Clark, who refuses to comment on whether or not he will sue.
Mr Clark said after the ATSIC board backed him: “I think this represents a turning point in the history of Aboriginal relationships in this country. I believe that now Aboriginal people know and feel in their hearts that they need to unite.”
How chilling. Is Geoff Clark saying that women better realise it’s black against white, and the injustices black people suffer at the hands of each other should be put aside in the greater cause?
And isn’t he coming very close to the stand Aboriginal magistrate Pat O’Shane took in choosing to effectively call the women liars on the basis only of the media report she and Mr Clark so condemned?
For Mr Clark to say this story has healed division in the Aboriginal community is shocking in its silencing of the voices of many Aboriginal women who want justice within the Aboriginal community as well as from the white world.
As the supposed leader of Aboriginal Australia – male and female – his public comments have betrayed the just cause of powerless female Aboriginal people, and left a nasty taste in the mouths of many white Australians who are deeply committed to the Aboriginal cause.
The least he owed to the cause of Aboriginal unity was to address the allegations of the women concerned. And the least he owed to the Australian people was not to indulge in ludicrous reverse racism.
GEORGE OOI in Clifton Hill, Melbourne
Some women do lie!
I cannot understand the fuss over the remarks of Pat O’Shane’s remark that in her experience as a Magistrate, some women do lie.
Do her critics, including the Sydney Morning Herald reporter Margo Kingston, claim that women never lie?
Do her critics have such short memory that they forget a recent case in Melbourne when a woman, falsely crying “RAPE!” led to the tragic bashing to death of an innocent gay man at a park in Melbourne?
Do the outraged feminists seriously claim that women NEVER LIE at all!
I’ve been a long time supporter of women’s rights and was one of the few men at the first conference of the Women’s Electoral Lobby at Canberra in the mid 70’s but does not further the cause of the feminists to make outrageous claim that women never make false accusations of rape or any other matter.
Sure, it’s sad that many men and women do not report rape. But all accusations must be tested in court.
Geoff Clark should not be tried by the high and mighty Fairfax Press usurping the role of prosecutor, judge and jury and Pat O’Shane should not be pilloried for supporting him and stating the obvious that some men and women do lie.
Stating the Geoff Clark has legal remedies open to him is a furphy. Firstly, according to a legal expert on Radio 774 Melbourne, it costs about a quarter of a million dollars to mount a complex libel case against the Fairfax press, which is OK for Geoff Kennett, Kerry Packer or the Fairfax Press but very few ordinary Aussie can even contemplate it.
Secondly the accusers should have the burden of proof, not the accused. Why should Geoff Clark, the accused, have to prove anything at all, Margo, or even respond? As the Prime Minister, to his credit asserted last Thursday, under our system of Common Law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not in the press.
The presumption of innocence is the very foundation of our law and judicial system and must not be usurped by the press.
Neither Geoff Clark nor Pat O’Shane has anything to answer for! It is the ilk of Margo Kingston and Andrew Rule (who wrote the story) and other arrogant usurpers of justice who should apologise to them and answer for their diatribe!
IAN WILSON in Toowoomba, Queensland
Margo Kingston’s article should read: There is no doubt that present-day media culture is deeply misandrist, and that the burden of being white and a man is, in many cases, to double the tragedy of their circumstances.
GEOFF HONNOR in Undercliffe, NSW
“What” huffs Margo Kingston “happens now that the ATSIC Board has decided to give their full support to Geoff Clark.” Well manifestly unjust as it may seem Margo, a public lynching of the Editor of the Age and the Fairfax columnists who so enthusiastically co-operated in his tawdry little knockoff plot is probably out of the question.
All however may not be lost. Pat O’Shane looks to be limping badly. With a bit of a push you guys might be able to get her instead and smother her to death with the old Fairfax sanctimony.
And yes indeed Margo, I too think that Geoff should follow John Marsden’s heroic example and absorb months of corrosive, character-destroying mudflinging in a can’t-win and utterly unnecessary attempt to “clear his name.” It would be almost as entertaining as watching journos discover the high moral ground; in the middle of a very smelly swamp.
PETER NUGENT in Queensland
Margo Kingston opinion piece published on 20 June is exactly the point Geoff Clark makes on the same day. However loathsome the crime of rape, and however unappealing his response to the allegations, Mr Clark is currently an innocent man.
He does not become guilty unless convicted in a Court following proof of his guilt by the prosecution. Mr Clark is under no obligation to prove his innocence and is entitled to simply deny his guilt and then mutely await the verdict.
The presumption of innocence is one of the cornerstones of our allegedly free society. A free and independent media is another cornerstone. I support the original publication of the story and all genuine reporting on it.
After all, Mr Clark can always have his day in the defamation Court and, if he wins, the Fairfax organisation will then simply have made him a wealthy man.
Kingston’s piece is pernicious and deplorable. A responsible editor should have consigned it to the wastebasket. I wonder whether she would have written the same things if the allegations had been about a different type of crime. I bet she wouldn’t have.
STEPHEN KUHN in Austinmer NSW
In defence of the women who allege they were raped by Geoff Clark, Margo Kingston says: ” There is also little doubt that they are – in the absence of the Fairfax story – powerless voices.” This is not true.
The courts are the appropriate venue for this debate. I would not want the courts replaced by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Burden of proof is on the prosecution not the defendant. The police have chosen not to prosecute at this stage. A large article in the Sydney Morning Herald does not equal a full prosecution and therefore no defence is required.
Is Margo Kingston suggesting that the burden of proof be lowered in criminal matters, so that a few statutory declarations and an article in the SMH proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? I hope not.
If the Police charge Geoff Clark then a defence will not only be desirable it will be necessary. Until then Geoff Clark has no case to answer. In the meantime all that is being achieved is that Geoff Clark is being deprived of his liberty.
I’ll begin with a contribution by Brian Bahnisch, as he makes it as clear as I could that the criminal justice system is not about truth, but proof according to strict rules of evidence – as it should be when the citizen’s liberty is threatened.
BRIAN BAHNISCH in Ashgrove, Brisbane
Disclosure: I used to work in the Department of Education in Brisbane and studied some philosophy and sociology many years ago. I was cleaned out by Wayne Goss’s boys 10 years ago when everyone was suspected of being a National Party toady. Now I mow lawns, invest in stocks and shares and try to work out how the world could be better organised.
Since The Age published the Geoff Clark allegations I have read and heard a lot on the ABC about the issues raised. I found your analysis particularly helpful and was particularly struck by the Rhonda Dixon email (Diary yesterday). It had the ring of truth about it, and if true, was clearly disturbing.
My reason for writing is not to add to the condemnation or praise of Pat O’Shane, Geoff Clark or The Age, but to identify an aspect of the discourse which has been overlooked to some extent.
We use different standards to establish the truth depending on the context. This was highlighted in the Carmen Lawrence matter. A Royal Commission uses ‘the balance of probabilities’ whereas a court uses ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
This higher standard of proof is important if we are to preserve the presumption of innocence. It is based on the notion that an individual’s rights in criminal matters must not be trampled in the interest of the State or society.
It was interesting that you said that The Age needed to satisfy itself as to the truth of the allegations against Clark ‘on the balance of probability’. It seems to me that the ATSIC commissioners should be using this standard of proof also.
If the police won’t act for whatever reason, the facility to test the criminal standard of proof is not available. To use the lack of a criminal conviction is a copout.
It is a copout because the question then becomes not whether Geoff Clark is a criminal, but whether he is fit to fill the position he holds. Here the Commissioners have a duty to the position of Chair which should take precedence over any feeling of solidarity towards an individual person.
Furthermore the Commissioners should not privilege the voice of the powerful over that of the weak and marginalised. To do so is to call into question their own fitness for the commission they hold.
One statement you made about the misogyny of Aboriginal men brought me up with a start. I had heard of it and read about it, but you made it sound pretty general. Then came the witness of Rhonda Dixon and just moments ago I heard you read out to Philip Adams a powerful statement by Evelyn Scott (in the Herald today) – chilling indeed!
It seems to me that if people like Pat O’Shane feel they have to choose between solidarity against racism over a concern for possible victims of crimes against women then the whole ATSIC project is deeply flawed. All the more reason for the Commissioners to think carefully about who should lead them.
The second part of my defence is this. There is a civil law which applies to this case – just as much THE LAW as the criminal law. It is the law of defamation.
The High Court held in the Theophanous case, as clarified in the 1998 Lange case, that the media has the right to publish matters in the public interest in certain circumstances. Clearly, the Clark story diminished his reputation. To defend ourselves, we could rely on truth, which we could have to prove on the balance of probabilities, or “qualified privilege”.
The High Court held unanimously in Lange that “Each member of the Australian community has an interest in disseminating and receiving information, opinions and arguments concerning government and political matters that affect the people of Australia.”
Now what must a media group prove to come within this limited right to free speech?
The Court said the media group “must establish that its conduct in making the publication was reasonable in all the circumstances of the case…The proof of reasonableness will fail as a matter of fact unless the publisher establishes that it was unaware of the falsity of the matter and did not act recklessly in making the publication”.
“As a general rule, a defendant’s conduct in publishing material giving rise to a defamatory imputation will not be reasonable unless the defendant had reasonable grounds for believing that the imputation was true, took proper steps, so far as they were reasonably open, to verify the accuracy of the material and did not believe the imputation to be untrue.”
This defence allows the media to engage in investigative reporting in the public interest provided it is meticulously researched and bona fide.
As I wrote in Monday’s diary, we do not yet know all the steps taken by The Age on this story. Clark says he won’t sue because he can’t afford it. This is incredible – any number of lawyers would take a case like this “on spec” if it had a reasonable prospect of success because of its potential for huge damages.
In these circumstances, the full details of the steps taken by The Age will come out in the press council hearing of Clark’s complaint, when he makes it.
By the way, do not imagine that the ATSIC Board is as one on this issue. Note that NO statement was issued by the board – instead deputy chair Ray Robinson announced verbally that Clark had the its unanimous support. I understand that intense pressure was placed on the five female board members to sign a statement supporting Clark. They refused.
JOY STEVENSON in Thornbury, Melbourne
Disclosure: My background includes teaching and research on Aboriginal communities (Borroloola, also Alekarenge and Goulburn Island). I have also worked at a Women’s Refuge and with women dealing with sexual assault.
Thursday’s front page article on Geoff Clark was the first time I have been really ashamed to be reading The Age. I looked forward to seeing your take on the issue in your Monday piece, and also listened to you talk to Philip Adams and then read Tuesday’s piece. I was so disappointed, and I have been trying hard to put the reason into words. Here goes.
Firstly, to look at an action and think ‘would we do the same if it was a white bloke?’ is only one of the checks for racist behaviour, and is very limited. Over and over the comment (not just from you) has been that the article would have of course been printed if it was a white official accused.
Well where are those articles? There is no lack of men in high positions who have raped and abused women and children (true!). There are many, many women who have been raped and never have seen justice.
So why does it happen that the one they get the dirt on is from an Aboriginal background? Think about it. Think what his background is. Think what his being Aboriginal means in terms of the research that led to those women, and of their positions. Of course it is a race issue.
If there was the evidence to convict Clark it could have been done and justice would have been seen to be done. But without that evidence Clark, innocent or guilty, will deny charges and act in a way to cause least damage to his own life and reputation, and to that of his organisation and his cause.
So what is the point? To expect him to address the women’s claims is just bizarre. It would be detrimental to himself to put them down, or to give any credence to them. Of course he will do neither.
Secondly, putting the issue as sex vs race politics is terribly simplistic. It may have been a concept to grapple with in the 1970’s but it is you, not Pat O’Shane, who is running with it now. And it is also The Age’sdefence against any criticism of its article. How clever.
Sex and Race are both issues of personal as well as wider social justice and of course no one should be keeping quiet about one for the good of the other. But I would query if that was the issue for those women in trying to get justice done.
If there had been accessible justice and support for the women at the time of their assaults there would not be an issue now. That there was not says more about our policing and justice system than it does about race politics in Aboriginal organisations.
Thirdly, I cannot believe that this is an ethical piece of journalism. If Andrew Rule and The Age had wanted to bring justice to those women, they should have got enough evidence to convict. Since they didn’t, this article is simply a slur. It is a slur on Geoff Clark, and then it slurs onto anyone who defends him, who supports him, onto his organisation and quite possibly onto the women who trusted The Age with their stories.
The Age knew that the police were not taking up the cases. What did they expect to get out of it? Front page news. Well done.
As for the women, I hope that having their stories told brings them some good and some healing. But it is also possible (likely?) that this experience may be a continuation of their abuse.
For Geoff Clark, if he is innocent it has been a wicked abuse of his rights by The Age. If he is guilty he learns to dig in his heels and keep denying it.
For the Aboriginal community, no matter who says what about the issue, they will be jumped on and needled and dug at to try to get more front page news. ATSIC is an organisation under enormous pressure, it is fighting hard to keep working well in spite of attack from all areas of society. This is the latest one.
It is possible that good may come from this story. Maybe, somewhere along the line, there may be justice done on some issue, or important issues aired and examined. But at the moment all I can see is destruction.
The messages that come across from this piece of journalism are the same old ones:
* Aboriginal men abuse and rape women,
* Abusive Aboriginal men get power,
* Aboriginal women are victims,
* Sexual abuse and misogyny is a much bigger issue in Aboriginal Communities than it is in ours,
* It’s the Aborigines who are racist, not us,
* ATSIC is a mess,
* The Aboriginal community does not support its leaders but are too frightened to say so,
* If they do support their leaders they are putting race politics ahead of the truth. and
* Journalists aren’t racist, and they are fighting for justice.
Geoff Clark’s tough approach may not be so effective against the Libs now. Surely if he backs anyone into a corner he will be reminded that he is on very thin ice.
I am reading an Amazon book called ‘The Mafia, CIA, George Bush’ about the the Contras, cocaine and Texas money.The author says journalists are not in the proof business, they are in the information business, and that proof is for mathematicians and courts of law.
What amazes me is how the elite – black and white – have closed ranks behind Clark. I heard the Age man justifying his work and he talked about a video of a footie match involving Clark when he bashed several players and was suspended. I know that he was a violent bastard and despite my support of Aboriginal rights, I dislike him.
ELLIAS ELLIOTT in Townsville
“Luvvy, luvvy, got two dollar?”
“No mother, I’m skint.”
“‘Ere, I know you. You been foolin’ with my daughter.”
“Rubbish. She just helped me blow my pay packet in the pub.”
“‘Ere, ‘er ‘usband, ‘e fix you up good.”
“But I never touched her.”
“Gimme two dollar.”
“Listen. I’ve got nothing left.”
I get home and find the T.V. and video missing. Charge me with rape? All I’d get is the luxury of defending myself at law.
In court, the currency is supposedly truth. But many people do lie in court and for truly base reasons. For such people, truth is a secondary issue. The real prize is leverage. Even vengeance for some perceived wrong is often a windfall outcome.
Outside the court, the currency is cred. People will believe what they want, interpret what they hear as they like and always push their own barrow.
In our urban jungles guilt or innocence becomes irrelevant when it comes to cred. Fairfax has unwisely bought into the furore surrounding Geoff Clark, ostensibly in a quest for truth. Truth will be lost in a battle for cred.
My many indigenous friends and neighbors know I would shun impropriety, let alone commit rape. But that doesn’t get my T.V. back. Somewhere, with someone, the thief has more cred.
I do not presume to know the truth of Mr Clark’s actions, but to attack his credibility is to engage in the realpolitik of indigenous society. A domain in which I fear Fairfax has no real experience, one in which it’s meddling will provide only succour for Hansonites.
DAVID DAVIS in Switzerland
Martin Williams (diary yesterday) talks about “the grubbiness of the attempted destruction of two of the most important Aboriginal figureheads and power brokers”. He’s referring to the reporting of the rape allegations made against Geoff Clark and the subsequent comments by Pat O’Shane. He then makes the point that Aborigines of both sexes are the most likely to suffer from all of this.
He may be right in the short term and this saga is undeniably regrettable from virtually every aspect. But who started it and how else could it have panned out?
If four women come forward and allow their names to be attached to such allegations, they need to be listened to. Clark deserves and gets his presumption of innocence but to brush aside or cover up the allegations would be unforgivable. To do that in the name of promoting the Aboriginal cause would be grotesque.
So far we don’t have a “Ministry of Truth” and while ever we don’t at least there is some hope of reconciliation. It would also be pretty weird if the O’Shane remarks weren’t set upon by any who care about justice and the rights of women. Her dismissive remarks were breathtaking.
This controversy could be a marker – opening an avenue for further discussion. Reconciliation is by definition a two way street. For it to be successful it needs to run below the superficial level of the white elites and the black elites. Unless both sides can be frank and discuss the issues openly, reconciliation cannot take place. (MARGO: My emphasis.)
The broad swathe of white Australia is not going to be brought along if they see double standards operating at the highest levels. Equally, I am not so sure that a huge chunk of Aboriginal women in particular would be happy with Clark or O’Shane. Potentially happy or unhappy is an inadequate description – “betrayal” may be more appropriate.
No one is untouchable and it would be an utter outrage if the media started adopting some kind of censorship based on race. Leaders, elected and unelected are accountable to their constituencies. The idea that different standards should apply is patronising.
In criminal terms, rape is about as serious as it gets. The idea that repeated, independent allegations would or should be ignored is nonsense.
Margo, I found your comment that present day Aboriginal culture is deeply misogynist to be disturbing but thought provoking. I have no particular reason to doubt you and it seems that practical experience suggests it is largely true.
The truth can sometimes be painful but denial and double-talk are ultimately more damaging.
Beyond all the symbolism though, there are some practical issues, such as how on earth can either Clark or O’Shane continue in their present roles?
If I were Clark and I were innocent I would not rest until my name was cleared. I certainly wouldn’t be trying to put the issue behind me and “drive on” in the name of aboriginal unity. That’s why we have defamation laws. Our law recognises that character is crucial. There’s a reason for that – it’s central, it’s intangible, and it can’t be bought or sold.
Character is actually priceless. Once irreparably damaged, it can’t be easily repaired either. ATSIC needs a leader who is seen to have character intact. Unless Geoff Clark or someone else can do something to restore his character he has to go.
MARTIN WILLIAMS has something to add
I note the the peculiar haste with which women in the Liberal Party (Chikarovski, Vanstone, Vale) have rushed to condemn O’Shane and demand her removal. As a federal minister, Vanstone’s comments were actually no less outside her brief than O’Shane’s. And Danna Vale’s pugnacious comment demanding to know what O’Shane had ever done for Aboriginal women really stuck in my craw.
With Howard’s contempt for judicial activism and Vale’s demand that O’Shane be judicially active, where is one left to go? In fact, the women in the federal Liberal Party have generally done their utmost to redefine and expand what it means to be “token”.
Their long standing uninterest in Aboriginal welfare has been even less edifying. (MARGO: To be fair, Danna Vale led the confrontation with Howard over the Northern Territory’s mandatory sentencing laws for children.) So their comments make me seethe, but they will probably capitalise more than anyone else from all of this.
I grew up in Kempsey. Not what you might call Australia’s model town as far as black-white relations are concerned. Anyone who has lived there can relate (with hilarity or discomfort and embarrassment depending on your attitude towards Aborigines) or relay stories of black women having the crap beaten out of them, up and down the main street, by a drunken black man while their children watched and while all the whites stared, laughed or walked away.
It brings me to tears to remember such things. And how “c…” is the favoured and prominent term of abuse used by younger male and female Aborigines who are inclined to talk like that.
And how black women are casually referred to as “gins” by white men at meetings of local civic organisations”.
My girlfriend is also “Aboriginal” – of a tribal indigenous minority – but not from Australia. She can also tell any number of stories about how poorly or superciliously Aboriginal men from her own community and elsewhere treat her and other women. And how she was ostracised from her village when she had a child out of wedlock. And in particular how top Aboriginal male leaders in political circles retain strongly sexist and contemptuous attitudes toward women and aren’t afraid to show it.
But these behaviours were so culturally accepted that there was absolutely nothing one could do to avoid them apart from flee to the cities and find work, where new sexist regimes would lay in wait. So I gained an insight into the predicament facing indigenous women from her as well.
But I still maintain that O’Shane’s looming fall is an utter tragedy, for all. And I get the impression that most ordinarily responsible voices (especially white people who approvingly “thought O’Shane was a feminist”) are treating O’Shane’s words more like a personal affront or an ideological sin rather than first and foremost considering that in the end hers was a supremely crude defense of the presumption of innocence of the defendant (which is her job, oddly enough). And also considering what effect O’Shane’s removal will have.
The key to escaping or fighting injustice is education, and O’Shane is a highly educated Aboriginal woman under siege by judicial and media inconsistency and who is not being assessed on her merits in balance. What a fine example this will set for young, aspiring, Aboriginal women.
If O’Shane gets the boot, she becomes an ethnic scapegoat. If she is allowed to stay, she will be forever branded as Australia’s judicial Uncle Tom (“better patronise her and let her stay, she’s Black and makes us look good”). The Liberal Party’s Aboriginal affairs thinktank could not have scripted this affair any better.
After the current media fuss dies down, I can’t see any dramatic increase in interest in Aboriginal women’s welfare in the short to medium term. Cathy Freeman must be grateful that she’s out of town and so not have to view and be asked to comment on all of this unravelling.
Disclosure: White male former military officer, currently studying law & working part time as a researcher.
I think you’re guilty of a knee jerk reaction to Magistrate O’Shane’s remarks. I say this because of what looks like a near deliberate attempt to misinterpret her.
Having said that, I can well understand anyone reacting angrily to what APPEAR to be convincing allegations of forcible rape, as I think the community generally holds this crime to be in the worst category of offence, along with murder and child sexual abuse.
I can also understand a woman being especially incensed, as there is nothing makes us humans more furious than an injustice which were powerless to stop, as are most women when confronted with a male rapist.
It is undoubtedly true that the majority of sexual assault allegations are made bona fide, and that many more instances go unreported, leaving vicious males (I’m loathe to call them men) free to offend again.
It is also true that false accusations are made. The motives for this need not even be malicious: I’m sure we all remember the recent tragic case of a gay man being bashed to death in a Sydney park after a mentally ill woman falsely claimed that he had raped her. Those men who thought they were doing extra-judicial justice for that woman are now, as I understand it, in gaol.
Which should give us all pause when considering Ms O’Shane’s remarks, especially journalists. Contrary to what you have now written several times, the magistrate DID NOT say that “most” women are lying when making such allegations. She said “a lot”, by which I take her to mean a number which is not statistically insignificant.
I have a friend working in family law who would agree, both that the majority of such allegations are well founded, and that quite a few aren’t. It is ridiculous that anyone can sincerely suggest that a woman appearing before O’Shane would be worried about gender bias. To once again buck the trend and cite an example, it was O’Shane who refused to punish women found guilty of vandalising advertising that she felt was sexist. As a feminist jurist, O’Shanes runs are on the [bill]board.
You have said that O’Shane “rejected the testimony” of Clark’s accusers. Your use of that legalistic term implies that the allegations were akin to court testimony when they were not in fact subject to cross examination or the rules of evidence.
Furthermore, O’Shane specifically stated that she had not seen the women or heard their stories. In other words she does not consider a newspaper report to be “testimony” at all, and was not judging the truth or otherwise of the specific allegations. (MARGO: If you check the transcript at abc.net.au, or the extensive excerpts in Rape and racism, diary Monday, you will see that she specifically attacked the credibility of one of the women, as well as all four in general terms.)
The magistrate was merely reminding society that the allegations could conceivably be false, and that Clark is innocent until they are proven, which is a degree of responsibility not shown by Fairfax or yourself.
The stories about Clark were presented as factual accounts, which almost certainly elicited feelings of outrage in the breasts of many readers similar to those experienced by our above mentioned park vigilantes.
If O’Shane is worried about a media witch-hunt, exacerbated by the emotive nature of the alleged crime and community prejudice, I would say that such fears are well grounded in the country whose press brought us the Chamberlain fiasco. (MARGO: Are you kidding? That was a jury verdict, and it stank!)
I hope you can see the parallels, but I dare say Australian journalism’s response would be much like Homer Simpson: “Marge my friend, I haven’t learned a thing.”
I feel you have been hard on Pat – I have seen her work and was impressed. She has bled to shift very stodgey/reactionary judicial attitudes especially in relation to authority, police, minorities and rape.
I’ve found the outcry against her very opportunistic – it will be a loss to the broader community if she is driven out.
Misogyny is a big issue in the indigenous community – the Australian has ran some devastating articles on it recently.
The dilemma of appointments to co-opt/achieve diversity is: do you go for the Clarence Thomas (at least he’s black) who’ll echo established values not matter how far they are removed from his community’s reality or do you pick an O’Shane who is willing to take risks to make a difference even though she shares the (tragic) blind-spots of her community.
Better still let’s pick someone safe from a nice private school who won’t rock the boat. With luck they’ll put a tax form in.
It may be in the public interest to report the allegations against Clark, but it will be a disaster if Pat goes down in the fall-out. The power of the Meejah again – for good or for ill.