May 12, 2003

THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL has stepped down

THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL has stepped down so that the ongoing witchhunt may be conducted without compromising his office.

Reporting on this case, in which Hollingworth has been accused of raping a woman some 40 years ago, has veered between shameful and criminal. In accordance with local witchhunting protocol, the torch-carrying mob is led by the ABC. This report, from the ABC's PM radio program last Friday, is an example:

When he made his extraordinary public statement last night the Governor-General drew attention to the way Annie Jarman had asked the court to keep her identity a secret ... But the reasons the two people wanted their identities protected differ in dramatic ways that were not alluded to by the Governor-General last night.

In the court documents revealed yesterday, an affidavit signed in February by Annie Jarman says:

"The severity of my psychiatric state is such that I am caused considerable anguish when I recall and am caused to focus upon the suffering that I endured. I have grave concerns that unless my anonymity is preserved in these proceedings, then I will suffer further damage to my psychiatric well-being which will be perilous to my health."

Imagine if Hollingworth had mentioned any of this. He'd have been accused of painting the woman as psychologically unstable in order to discredit her. Back to the ABC's report, which pretends to know the absolute truth behind Jarman's request, and seeks to establish a class dispute at the core of the case:

Her concern was obviously real and heart felt, and it was backed up by a medical report and the judge went along with her request, an increasingly regular thing for people claiming to be victims of abuse.

But it's a sign of the vast gulf in status between the two characters in this tragedy that the Governor-General's reasons for seeking the suppression of his identity differed so dramatically.

His lawyers argued that his identity should be kept a secret because publishing it in connection with the sex abuse allegations was likely to have a significant and far reaching consequence for Peter Hollingworth and his position as Governor-General of Australia, and that publishing his name would inevitably lead to substantial public comment and controversy in relation to the position Peter Hollingworth presently holds.

The world of difference between their two stations in life was even made stark in the very reasons each of these people sought to keep their names out of the headlines that now loom so large around the nation.

Memo to the ABC: one of the people in this case had a history of psychological problems (which, I add, do not in themselves diminish her claims). The other is the Governor-General. One is the accuser, the other the accused. Of course their reasons for requesting suppression will differ. Their reasons for doing anything will differ.

Maybe the ABC would have been happy if the Governor-General had cited a tragic childhood as the reason for requesting suppression. Never mind; Hollingworth should be comforted by the fact that the more the ABC pursues him, the more likely it will be that the public will support him. It'll be interesting to see the way this plays out.

UPDATE. Silent Running has much more.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 12, 2003 12:27 AM