WHEN peak bodies representing the relevant professions are opposed to a government reform, the angle for an orthodox reporter is simple and age-old: conflict. The reward for investigating conflict is the back story: a hidden agenda, lies or – at the least – ineptitude. The more impactful an alleged reform, the more consequential the rift and beneficial the sunlight. Ergo: it is both newsworthy and troubling that the Queensland Law Society strongly opposes the Palaszczuk government’s removal of pre-trial identity protections for men accused of rape which took effect in Queensland last week. But rather than interviewing the president of the QLS – voila: conflict – the ABC interviewed its former president. Why? Because Bill Potts supports the change. Reporter Alex Brewster could also have sought comments from the Queensland Bar Association and the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties. They too strongly oppose the relevant amendments whose carriage to enactment was the responsibility of far-left Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman and her equally fanatical successor, Yvette D’Ath. A brickbat from the QCCL alone is usually seen as significant. Synonymous with civil rights legend Terry O’Gorman, the council has been fighting police-statism for 57 years. Brewster didn’t speak to O’Gorman – its Vice-President – either.
With little fanfare, the launch of the Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Act – which, for accuracy’s sake, should be called the Extrajudicial Punishment of Men Who Might Be Acquitted Act; or Brittany’s Law, for short – took place at Toowoomba Magistrates Court last Thursday. By an amazing coincidence which I am not at liberty to explain here, the first deployment of these attainder-like laws involves a “high-profile man” and an allegedly raped accuser. The proceedings were farcical but illuminating. An angry ‘victim,’ an angry female prosecutor and an angry female magistrate were in divers stages of umbrage because HPM successfully obtained a Supreme Court injunction to remain anonymous unless and until he is actually committed to stand trial.
Nicole Friedewald, for the State, told the court – as though citing a scholar – that the complainant “expressed her view that the man’s identity should be published.” His hen-pecked brief begged to differ. More importantly, the irksomely named Mr King was right. It is obvious from reports of the hearing that the accuser – who has the franchise on anonymity – sees identification of the accused as a punitive measure in its own right. She may not be a barrister or even a victim but her perception is faultless. Naming, blaming and shaming the merely accused is an ersatz guilty verdict (and sentence) designed to offset the patriarchal scandal of acquittal. The official tripartite rationale for the ‘reform’ is a three shell trick. Bringing Queensland “into line with other states” simply means that a Labor government in a socially conservative jurisdiction – and in its death throes – has decided to imitate extremism elsewhere. Bringing the law on media coverage of rape charges “into line with other crimes” is filler: nobody believes a man awaiting committal for trial about a stolen tinny is in the same reputational boat, so to speak, as an alleged rapist. No, the thimblerigger’s golden pea is under the third cup: “rape myths.”
A slogan workshopped to within an inch of its life, “rape myths” has been deliberately cultivated in the media by Fentimen and D’Ath for more than 12 months. The objective was to enlist journalists and ‘educate’ the public to abandon ingrained reverence for the presumption of innocence. It is the same modus operandi – curated by the same extremists – as the one used during the ‘pandemic’ to force citizens to accept that nazism was necessary to combat the flu. In November 2022, Fentiman claimed that no woman had ever maliciously fibbed about a sexual encounter. “These prohibitions are based on rape myths, where women come forward and make up complaints. There is no place for those myths anymore.” In May, her replacement as Attorney-General, D’Ath, repeated the same lines: “The previous protections for accused rapists were based in part on the false assumption that women maliciously make up complaints to damage reputations. These rape myths have absolutely no place in our society.” By mid-September, when the laws were enacted, the ABC and other media were reporting the government’s trinary justification for defaming innocent men as straight news. Two secondary advantages were also being retailed to close the sale: the unfalsifiable non sequitur that sexual assaults are under-reported (according to ‘studies’) and that identification encourages other ‘victims’ to come forward (call this one the Tethering Gambit).
The other Princess Margaret
If you’re beginning to sense the orchestral presence behind the scenes of a zealot, your instincts are sound. As chauvinistic about oestrogen as Palaszczuk, D’Ath and Fentiman undoubtedly are, none have had the time over the past two years to design a revolution. That’s why the Premier set up the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce in March 2021 and installed undistinguished former justice of the Queensland Court of Appeal Margaret McMurdo as its abbess. This was the latest in a series of Labor-favoured advancements for Mrs McMurdo that began in the 1990s with her appointment as a judge of the District and Children’s courts by the Goss government. Despite never presiding at the Supreme Court, she was leapfrogged into the presidency of its appellate division by the Beattie government. To describe her as undistinguished is accurate given remarks she herself made at her valedictory in 2017. Asked what the pinnacle of her career had been, she said it was “resisting” the Newman government – an oddly Trotskyist thing for a retiring jurist to say. Her memory of those “dark days” was no more convincing than her recollection of a meeting in 2014 with then Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie at which she sought to have her husband – Supreme Court justice, Philip – appointed to keep her company on the appeals bench. Husband and wife believed the convention that judges stay out of politics did not apply to them.
If Mrs McMurdo – who was 60 in 2014 – didn’t like being given a well-deserved dressing-down by a 32 year-old Attorney-General for making political speeches, the Brisbane Girls Grammar School alumnus was positively enraged by Premier Newman’s appointment of a burly ex-policeman from a housing commission background to the Chief Justiceship in July of that year. The now infamous coup by Queensland’s aristocracy of (often intermarried) Labor lawyers that caused the resignation of Tim Carmody after a single year as CJ had several elements to it. His insistence that magistrates and judges follow the sentencing requirements stipulated in legislation triggered pious conniptions from Cape York to Coolum. Foremost of the outlandish, chutzpah-fuelled casus belli, however, was his supposed ‘closeness’ to the Newman government in general and his willingness to meet with an advocate for sexually assaulted children in particular.
That Chief Justice Carmody met with Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston in April 2015 during the appeals process for Brett Peter Cowan (though not to discuss that case) was exploited by McMurdo in yet another prideful, overwrought and legally harebrained intervention whose apparent purpose was to gaslight and undermine the state’s most senior judge. In May, after being reproached by the Chief Justice for hysterically claiming the Johnston meeting gave rise to an apprehension of bias in the Cowan appeal, the scorned diva told the executive director of the Supreme and District Courts that she “cannot sit with him again.” It was almost as though the Grammar Old Girl was stuck on a council bus to casa Carmody in Inala alongside the boy meat worker Tim used to be. She wanted to get off. Actually, she wanted him to get off and in July 2015 – in poor health and with an ailing wife – he did. Cowan – the murderer of Daniel Morcombe; regarded as one of the most evil degenerates in the annals of Queensland crime – failed to overturn his conviction and remains in prison. If the publicity of meeting a child safety campaigner jeopardised the convicted Cowan’s rights, how much more will it imperil the merely accused when the state is coaching prospective jurors to believe that women never gild the lily and men are always to blame?