Sunday, August 08, 2021

‘Distressed’ Brittany Higgins accused Bruce Lehrmann denies allegations

Ms Higgins was found passed out in an office by guards at 4am so her recollection of what happened prior to that maybe unreliable. The barrister will tear her apart

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann can be identified as the man who has received a summons to appear in an ACT Court on September 16 over allegations that he sexually assaulted Brittany Higgins at Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann, who is said to be “distressed” and shocked by the single charge of sexual intercourse without consent has vehemently denied the allegations and vowed to clear his name.

Lawyers acting for the Queensland man have told that their client will defend the charge. They will argue he never had sex with Ms Higgins after they both returned to the office after midnight in March 2019.

Mr Lehrmann had worked for the Liberal Party for years holding jobs in former Attorney-General George Brandis’ office and for Nationals MPs.

Senator Brandis personally thanked him for his service in his valedictory speech when he retired from politics.

After his departure from Parliament he worked as a political lobbyist.

Police have confirmed they intend to charge the man with sexual intercourse without consent after a six-month investigation into former Liberal staffer Ms Higgins’ allegations. The maximum penalty for the offence under ACT law is 12 years jail.

“The man will face one charge of sexual intercourse without consent. The maximum penalty for this offence is 12 years imprisonment,’’ the ACT Police said.

In a statement, the man’s lawyer John Korn said that he would unequivocally reject the allegation. “My client absolutely and unequivocally denies that any form of sexual activity took place at all,’’ Mr Korn said. “He will defend the charge.”

Mr Korn is a specialist defence barrister in the NSW Supreme, District and Local Courts and his website states that he “appears most regularly in cases alleging murder, serious sexual Assaults and commercial drug charges”. broke the story on February 15, 2021 that Brittany Higgins alleged she had attended Parliament House with the man in 2019.

She was later found by security guards in Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office at 4am in the morning.

Ms Higgins has given legal consent to identify her as the alleged victim in the matter.

Police will allege the incident occurred in the early hours of March 23, 2019, after Friday night drinks in Canberra. It was just weeks before Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the election on April 10, 2019.

In her interview with, Ms Higgins made explosive allegations concerning the Morrison government’s handling of the incident.

This included being brought to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the room Ms Higgins alleged the incident occurred – a decision the Morrison government has now accepted was an error by then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds.

Senator Reynolds was later forced to apologise for calling Ms Higgins a “lying cow” in front of staff in her office.

She subsequently agreed to a financial settlement that Ms Higgins donated to a Canberra based sexual assault counselling service.

In June, the Australian Federal Police received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether or not there was a reasonable prospect of conviction.


Tame v Porter: the presumption of innocence must apply to all, not only the most loveable among us

Christian Porter is not entitled to the presumption of innocence. If he were being tried before a criminal court, he would be. But because the police have determined there was insufficient admissible evidence to take allegations of a historical rape to court, Porter will never face that court, nor be afforded that presumption. Instead, his life is in a limbo, in which he will never be legally convicted, nor ever cleared.

The public was reminded of his impossible situation last week, when the Prime Minister handed Porter the task of temporarily filling in for the Leader of the House of Representatives. Australian of the Year Grace Tame penned a thundering column, in which she called Porter’s transitory role “a proverbial slap in the face of our entire nation”.

Tame argues it is “hard to process how an accused rapist … could be offered one of the highest positions of power in the country by none other than our nation’s leader himself”. A survivor of child sexual abuse, Tame contends “it isn’t just Porter’s character that’s in question here, it’s the morality of our current leadership”.

Therefore the question is whether it is moral to expel someone from office on the basis of an untestable accusation. Public opinion is divided on the answer.

On the one hand, the argument is as Tame has articulated it: that someone accused of rape cannot be a “fit and proper” person. On the other hand, as Porter has argued, if he loses his position over something that has not been proven at trial and never can be, “then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print”. There are good-faith arguments on both sides.

If the issue were simply whether Porter should be in cabinet, it might be easier for his detractors to rely on his character to condemn him. Whatever the truth of the rape allegations, plenty of evidence has emerged that he was a self-important teenager who grew into an entitled man. At university he allowed himself to be called by his famous father’s nickname, a trivial affectation, but if there is a bare-minimum standard of fitness to hold ministerial office, for me he failed at that hurdle.

Instead, the issue is the principle. Whether a certain type of accusation should automatically exclude its object from certain professions, or whether we should on principle reject the assumption of guilt.

The ABC has agreed to add a note to the story that originally aired the rape allegation, stating that “both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter”, a reading which “is regretted”.

Much as the ABC may regret that misreading, the story crystallised accusation into fact in many people’s minds. Twitter provides numerous examples. Following Tame’s article in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week, one tweet said “anyone with half a brain can see that Porter is guilty”. Another simply posted an image of Porter with the words “alleged rapist until proven innocent” emblazoned on it. Tame herself compares the “twice-convicted paedophile” who abused her in a horrific and unforgivable way to the accused Porter.

Bret Walker SC, widely considered one of Australia’s pre-eminent legal minds, is at pains to point out that the concept of the presumption of innocence is relevant in a trial circumstance only, and does not at any point imply that the defendant is actually innocent. “The presumption of innocence,” he says, “involves an open mind about the outcome of a trial but not the magical thinking that says until a person is convicted they were innocent, they should never have been tried”.

However, Walker says, the alternative to the presumption of innocence “leads you to such horrors as the exculpatory trial, where an accused person would have to demonstrate that they are not guilty”.

Our system is based on proving guilt rather than innocence because an individual cannot be expected to muster the resources to clear themselves of all suspicion. Given the historical nature of the accusation against Porter, and the sad fact his accuser is dead, he is left without the ability to exculpate himself. He has compounded his situation by suing the ABC and having the defence documents redacted.

Porter has been shown to have considerable character flaws, among them poor judgment in responding to his invidious situation. But if the question is one of morality and principle, then it is possible to argue that it is as immoral to presume Porter guilty as it is incorrect to presume him innocent.

Principles mean nothing if upholding them only rewards the loveable among us. In our secular society, the presumption of innocence has become an expression of the public understanding of the principle of fairness. And if a principle is worth defending, it is worth defending even when it benefits the least lovely among us. The public benefit is that, in defending them, we are protecting ourselves from potential future injustices.

It is unlikely now that Porter, who once declared he would be prime minister, will ever ascend to that office. But he has taken on a very different high-profile role in Australian culture. He provides us with an opportunity to consider justice in the era of the online lynch mob. There are plenty of other principles which this government can be shown to have flouted; there is no need to attack one that it is right to defend.


Way We Were: The weather men who made Queensland’s meteorological history

During my childhood, Inigo Jones was much respected. His forecasts were on the news

The weather holds a special fascination in a land of floods, drought and cyclones, and during the century before Google, long-range forecasting belonged to Queensland.

Clement Wragge, Inigo Jones and Lennox Walker followed weather cycles and used the planets and sunspots to inform the decisions of farmers, business, builders and even the punters and brides of Australia. They had their detractors but were revered by primary producers. The dynasty began with Wragge, who founded the Meteorological Society of Australasia in 1886 and was the meteorological observer in the Queensland post and telegraph department.

He issued forecasts, pioneered research into cyclones in the Pacific, and is also credited with introducing the use of the Greek alphabet, biblical and personal names for cyclones and low pressure systems.

In 1891, at a world meteorology conference in Germany, Wragge was introduced to Eduard Bruckner’s ideas on the planetary effects on climate and this, with his own theories on the effects of sunspots on the weather, set the course for Queensland’s famous long-range forecasters. It was Wragge’s young apprentice, Inigo Jones, who took the theories further. Weather conditions, he contended, followed a uniform pattern based on sunspot activity varying the magnetic field of planets.

Jones was only 15, when he joined Wragge at the meteorology office. He left five years later when his parents bought a farm at Peachester in 1892, which they named Crohamhurst after a park near Inigo’s birthplace in Surrey.

For the next 30 years, Jones helped his father on the farm and continued his meteorological research as a hobby. He came to appreciate the farmer’s dependence on weather forecasts and in 1923, began issuing long-range predictions based on detailed charts and extensive records full-time.

The Queensland government appointed him director of the Bureau of Seasonal Forecasting of the Council of Agriculture, and the Inigo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust was formed in October 1928. His forecasts, which appeared regularly in newspapers around the nation, were widely acclaimed during the 1920s and 1930s and his work quickly put the observatory he built at Crohamhurst on the map after it opened in 1935. Although Jones was a respected member of various scientific organisations, two government investigations concluded his methods had no scientific basis.

But the orthodox weathermen who criticised his forecasting, could not argue with Jones’ prediction of his own death.

In the weeks before he died, he wrote to a young man who had applied to become an assistant that if he intended to accept the offer, he had better hurry as there wasn’t much time left. He also told his chief assistant, Robert Lennox Walker, that he did not feel he would be going to the observatory the following day. He was right. He suffered a heart attack and died, aged 81, on November 14, 1954.

The death of “one of the best-known identities of the eastern states of Australia” was widely mourned. The premier, Vince Gair, said that although not everyone agreed with Jones’ methods of forecasting weather, they appreciated his desire to give service, while the Queensland Dairymen’s president said he hoped Jones’ work would continue.

It did. Within days of his death, Lennox Walker, a 29-year-old ex-serviceman was announced as his nominated successor. He had been working at Crohamhurst Observatory for 16 months.

Born in Sydney, Walker had served on the Kokoda Trail and on his return, studied as a surveyor and worked with the NSW and Queensland Forestry Commissions. An eager student of Jones, he also believed that weather could be predicted by past cycles. His first triumph came in 1956, with his forecast for the Melbourne Olympics. He predicted fine weather for the games despite intense rain during spring. The rain stopped in time for the opening ceremony on November 22.

He also forecast Cyclone Tracey, which devastated Darwin in 1974. As well as primary industry, Lennox was kept busy forecasting weather for weddings, holiday-makers, businesses, and regular reports to newspapers.

Punters asked about weather for race meetings so they could foretell track conditions. One called hoping for a wet track for the Melbourne Cup in 1976.

“It will be,” Walker told him. He was advised to back Van Der Hum. He did. It was one of the wettest Cups on record, and Van Der Hum won. At 68, after 41 years of forecasting, Lennox retired and handed the reins to his son Hayden Walker who continues to use the work of those who came before him and retains the extensive records, some dating back to the 19th century. He successfully predicted cyclones Larry, Yasi, Marcia and Olwyn and the April 2015 floods on the NSW coast.

Crohamhurst was sold in 2002, and was heritage listed in 2008.




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