This strategy has allowed the prime minister to avoid commenting on matters of principle and in doing so avoid any negative taint or criticism by association with difficult issues. Throughout the George Pell, Geoffrey Rush, Craig McLachlan and assorted Twitter-fuelled, #MeToo-kindled witch-hunts the PM has always chosen to float above the fray, carefully avoiding at every opportunity the need to firmly and repeatedly remind the public and the media that the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt are the fundamental cornerstones of our enviable and precious criminal legal system and must be preserved at all costs. Importantly, a principle is only a principle if you espouse it and remain true to it during the tough times as well as the easy times.
Indeed, during the ultimate test of values – the George Pell case – it is worth remembering that two former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard bravely stuck to those principles despite the fury and condemnation of the mob, whereas their successors Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Morrison blatantly failed to do so. This intellectual laziness, or cowardice, may suit the prime minister’s current poll-driven ‘daggy dad’ image, but it comes at an unacceptable cost to us all. Christine Holgate has already paid the price for the PM’s craven response to the howling mob. The mob will now be baying for Christian Porter’s resignation, too.
Another dictum rarely heard these days, although it once was viewed as a principle to be proud of, even by the Left, was Blackstone’s 250-year-old formulation: better that ten guilty persons go free than that one innocent person be found guilty.
Sadly, a major feature of social media justice is the complete inverse: better that ten innocent people be found guilty of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ or ‘hate speech’ than the slightest chance that anyone even vaguely guilty escape the most savage and brutal condemnation, pubic humiliation and ritual punishment. Preferably involving immediate ‘canceling’ of career, income and reputation.
It is inevitable that in future years many decent and fair-minded people from all sides of politics will look back in dismay at how cowardly were today’s leaders as liberties and freedoms were being eroded and trashed.
And it is equally inevitable that it will be many of them or even worse their children who will have their lives ripped to shreds by the bloodlust and savagery of social media lynch mobs. But by then it will be far too late to cry out ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Turnbull’s Believe It or Not!
‘It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul’, growls Bob Dylan in his latest single. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared to be humming a not dissimilar refrain with his bizarre comments to the ABC about the woman at the centre of the recent ‘ministerial rape’ scandal: ‘We don’t know for sure that she took her own life.’ Putting aside the fact that such a tragedy should never be used for base political purposes, the former member for Wentworth’s sly innuendo highlights yet again how poisonous are his tactics and how low he will stoop to avenge his bruised and bitter ego.
Indeed, a fictional writer of ghost stories or grisly murder tales would have difficulty in creating a more crippled character than that of Mr Harbourside Mansion; a Shakespearean spectre lurking in his waterfront castle surrounded by nothing but his hatred, jealousy and desire for revenge against his former colleagues, a thirst that even his glittering riches can never satiate.
Cast into the bleak wilderness of political irrelevance, the lonely ghoul prowls his gilded corridors forever seeking opportunities to conjure up some fanciful mischief against those who, quite rightly, decided he was a disaster and dumped him. It is high time the Liberal party did the same and exorcised this miserable ghost from party membership, for the sanity of all.