Seasoned political observers say any pretence that the horrific claims made against Victorian cabinet minister Theo Theophanous were sourced from a credible accuser were stripped bare by a breathtaking front-page attack on him in The Age today.
One said that “Ironically, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to him (Theophanous). We now all know what he’s dealing with: a raging psycho. The presumption that where there’s smoke there’s fire is beginning to clear up very quickly. This is no damsel in distress, this is someone with a clear agenda, with little or no regard for any Police process.”
LYNCHING BY MEDIA
One of the Minister’s colleagues told VEXNEWS “This is the most grotesquely irresponsible, extraordinary, outrageous and despicable stories ever published in The Age newspaper.” He explained: “The Age’s hostility to Theophanous has been well established with repeated campaigns against him ever since he fell out with (the Left faction’s) Kim Carr.”
“It is a lynching by media, punishment meted out by journalists without any reference to evidence or justice,” another angry source within government, verging on tears. “I thought I’d seen everything but this is putrid. Even Theo’s most sworn enemies will be wary about this woman now.”
Media insiders today compared the publication of untested claims of a self-admitted psychiatric patient as crazier and even more fool-hardy than the Age’s assertion in the early 1980s that Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer, was a heroin importer.
In a particularly puzzling development, the story was written by Carolyn Webb, a rarely published, long-serving Age “human interest” story writer who normally writes harmless “colour” about arts or sporting events. She’s had a significant change of pace here to write an article based around a series of disturbing, angry quotes from the woman who claims the minister attacked her in Parliament House late one night ten years ago.
Webb does not appear to have ever written on politics before and some speculate she might even know the anono-accuser because she wouldn’t be the most obvious person to be allocated the story by the newsdesk, based on form.
In the bizarre interview, the self-admittedly psychiatrically disturbed, mentally ill woman declines to adequately explain why it took nearly a decade for her complaints to be made.
Nor does she explain why she didn’t take the opportunity after leaving Parliament House that night to complain to the Victoria Police officers who guard the building 24 hours a day.
She said the reason for her delay was ‘fear’, although doesn’t explain how that ‘fear’ has dissipated to such an extent she is now bestowing exclusive media interviews to hand-picked journalists, in the midst of a Police investigation she prompted, a decade after the alleged event she complains about.
The accuser seems to admit to preparing to obtain money from the Minister via civil proceedings and had apparently briefed lawyers two years ago before deciding not to proceed that way and instead trying her luck with the Police. She may well be planning to sue after this blaze of publicity.
MAD AS A CUT SNAKE
The Minister’s accuser concedes she sees both psychiatrists and psychologists. She explains to her sympathetic scribe “I was spiralling downwards. I was on antidepressants and sleeping tablets. I’ve seen a psychologist and a psychiatrist.” Weren’t alarm bells starting to ring at The Age the moment she mentioned psychiatrist? Apparently not.
Psychiatry is a medical specialty which exists to study, prevent, and treat mental disorders in humans.
The psychiatric patient continued with her disturbing tale, which appear to have included self-harm:
“I have almost overdosed, I’m ashamed to say. I just drank alcohol and took a couple of sleeping tablets. It’s a way of blocking it out.” Some might think it’s a shame we can’t block her out.
Prior to making her spectacular complaint she told The Age she had a nervous breakdown. She says she “got to the point where I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t watch TV, I had a complete breakdown, I couldn’t hold a job.” Her proposition is – it seems – this is all the fault of a Victorian cabinet minister.
She says – despite not wanting to be identified – that “I am prepared to stand on the steps of Parliament with a banner saying, ‘I want justice’. That’s how far I will go.”
The accuser appears to admit to having been in telephone contact with the person she claims attacked her, which some might think is not behaviour consistent with the rest of her story. One is hardly likely to be in communication with one’s assaulter or one’s assault victim. Something doesn’t add up there.
Ominously, she thinks the Police are very involved in her life, the journalist Webb declared:
She has been in constant phone contact with Victoria Police detectives “who have been my lifeline; without them I wouldn’t have survived”.
Although, oddly, she appears to have only contacted the Police last year. And had managed to survive through 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 without their assistance.
NOT LEAKING, DROWNING
We can only hope those detectives are not knowingly concerned in this trial by media. The eyes of the entire political apparatus of the state – with both sides of the aisle equally curious – are now on those involved in enforcing the law to ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done. The stakes are high and getting higher by the minute, particularly now the complainant is on the loose, giving exclusive interviews and threatening to pick up protest banners in support of her case.
One Liberal remarked to VEXNEWS yesterday “There but for the grace of God go many Parliament House playas, including Richard Dalla Riva and David Davis whose Olympian skirt-chasing in Spring Street would put the Labor blokes to shame, Theo included. There are no little blue pills in David Davis’ desk, he’s always raring to go.”
After today, with the newspaper and the complainant showing little respect for a gravely serious legal process, it is clear this is truly now a gruesome battle for survival. Key facts are still sketchy – with the anonymous complainant’s description very light on detail – with the Minister rightly respecting the process and not commenting on anything until the appropriate time.
FALSE RAPE CLAIMS ARE A SERIOUS SOCIAL PROBLEM
And it’s well worth considering the consequences of The Age getting this story so horribly wrong. False rape claims are sadly not rare (a Google search reveals dozens of examples in recent times) and present a very serious challenge to both our justice system and society itself as it deals with the one of the gravest of allegations that can be made against any person. Wendy McElroy, a feminist writer, has written extensively on false rape claims:
And yet, whenever an unwitnessed crime (of rape) is alleged, such speculation (about the truth of the claim) is valid. This is especially true if the allegation of crime is not unambiguously backed up by physical evidence. In a “he said/she said” scenario, the credibility of the accuser is key. This is why Western jurisprudence recognizes the right of the accused to face his or her accuser and ask questions in a court of law.
She tells the story of Tucker Carlson, a then CNN journalist who later moved to host on MSNBC cable news channel.
Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson discusses another motive that underlies some false accusations. In 2001, a woman he had never met alleged he had raped her in Louisville, a city he had never visited. After $14,000 in defensive legal bills, Carlson discovered that the woman had a chronic mental disorder. He decided not to sue for redress since it would further link his name with the word “rape.”
Carlson even hesitated to speak out in his tell-all book because “the stigma of being accused of that kind of crime is so strong.” Fortunately, he thought it taught a valuable lesson: “I always assumed, like every other journalist does, that all sex scandals are rooted in the truth, period. You may not have done precisely what you’re accused of, but you did something.” From bitter experience, he now knows differently.
At this stage, it seems only two people can be certain of the truth in this case. One of them has confessed to being mentally ill and certainly appears to harbour a long-held grudge of some kind against the Minister.
THE AGE IS OUT ON A LIMB HERE // LET’S SHARPEN THE AXE IN ANTICIPATION
Long after the Age has already imposed its sentence on the Minister, the facts of who made this claim and why will be revealed. It’s already beginning to look like a very murky, muddled and ugly picture hidden in the dusty attic of a disturbed mind. Whatever the result, we can only hope the accuser gets the help with her mental health she clearly needs.
The Age’s willingness to use – and no doubt eventually discard – the anono-accuser marks a very disturbing chapter in their long and sordid history of character assassination and sensationalism.
They have done the accuser no favours. They have brought her credit into question and made her credibility the central issue now. If it’s her word against his, and she’s planning protest vigils outside Spring Street in between appointments with her shrinks and late night pill-popping with booze chaser sessions, then it is hard to imagine a case succeeding. But obviously damage is done anyway. Throw enough mud, and some of it sticks.
It took a long time for Kerry Packer to recover from the Age’s patently absurd charge that he was an importer of heroin. It might take Minister Theophanous a long time too. But his supporters can take comfort today – after their first pained reaction to The Age’s drive-by shooting attempt – that time heals all wounds and most assuredly wounds all heels. Including the heels on the sensible shoes of Carolyn Webb who trampled all over the principles of justice The Age professes to believe in every time a crazed Islamist terrorist or psycho-convert is on trial (even after they confess).
This morning, that sacred cow has been put to the sword, beheaded by The Age’s Editor Paul Ramadge to fulfil The Age’s ultimate ALP factional fantasy thrill-kill: the demise of Theo.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone just how low they are willing to go to settle an old score for their Socialist Left factional friends. They hope no one notices the inconsistency in their approach. For Jihad Jack, they’ll presume him innocent despite damning evidence. Even terrorist convict David Hicks is to be afforded that presumption long after his guilty plea to being trained to commit terrorist acts. But a politician in a faction they don’t like, guilty of changing sides from the Left to their enemy, that’s a different matter. Off with his head. Verdict and evidence can come later, perhaps like some at The Age, the victim of outsourcing.
In the event the Minister isn’t charged with any offence, the anono-accuser, her facilitator Ms Webb and her employer Paul Ramadge, the editor-in-chief of The Age will have a lot of explaining to do.
For now though, the accuser is in focus. An accuser with the gravest of accusations. But takes ten years to report it. An alleged victim of a serious assault. But in a building with a significant Police presence, even late at night. A woman who “said she did not want to see the case become ‘a political circus’ yet agrees to a front-page exclusive interview in a newspaper renowned for maintaining a political vendetta against the target of her hate.
It doesn’t feel entirely comfortable for any of us being sceptical about anyone complaining about a serious alleged assault of this kind. We’re all wired to be sympathetic and concerned about this kind of grave and sinister accusation. But it’s the accuser and those publishing her wild and clearly dubious claims who have turned this into an obscene and outrageous political circus, no one else. It might – and certainly should – cost them plenty.