On 21 August 2014 Bill Shorten made a public statement about the Victoria Police investigation of Kathy Sherriff's rape allegation.
The troublesome statements in Mr Shorten's response include these:
- .....the allegation was untrue and abhorrent.
- The allegation was made by someone I knew briefly at that time.
- There is absolutely no basis for the claim.
Mr Shorten and his legal advisor were in a difficult position.
Kathy was 16 at the time of the offence. Shorten was 19 and he was in a position with some authority at a Young Labor camp. Kathy says Shorten was responsible for organising the sleeping accommodation and had other leadership roles.
An admission to any sexual activity with Ms Sherriff in those circumstances may have exposed Mr Shorten to significant legal problems. Ms Sherriff also accuses SHORTEN of plying her with intoxicating liquor and distributing marijuana, all of which, if true, would involve significant criminality on SHORTEN's part.
So Shorten tied himself to the statement "There is absolutely no basis for the claim".
The unavoidable consequences for Kathy Sherriff if Shorten's statement is true
Victorian law provides that:
Any person who falsely and with knowledge of the falsity of the report voluntarily reports or causes to be reported to any police officer or to a protective services officer that an act has been done or an event has occurred, which act or event as so reported is such as calls for an investigation by a police officer or a protective services officer shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: 120 penalty units or imprisonment for 1 year.
Shorten says "There is absolutely no basis for (Ms Sherriff's) claim".
He was never questioned about his statement - publicly at least.
Our media was prepared to paint Shorten as the victim of a baseless smear. It dutifully published "news" articles that included SHORTEN's false, or at best misleading claim that he had been "cleared" over the "untrue, abhorrent and baseless" claim against him.
Kathy has been unwavering in her allegation. She also put the police to an expensive, lengthy and complex investigation of this historical offence.
Had Shorten said he couldn't remember, he was drunk or a something similar there may have been wriggle-room for the accommodation of both his and Kathy's recollection of events.
But Shorten was emphatic - Kathy's allegation was false.
That leaves police in an invidious position. Shorten's position is irreconcilable with Sherriff's, and if Shorten is right, Sherriff is in serious trouble.
Why then no charge against her? Why did Shorten himself not demand action against what he says was a baseless and thus malicious or vexatious complaint?
These are questions a neutral media and political class should have asked of Shorten.
But these are not neutral times. We live in a time that demands even higher standards of those in public life, particularly our media. That it allowed Shorten to escape further scrutiny on this question is inexcusable.
Violence against women - the times we live in
Huge amounts of public money, time and effort are being spent on convincing us that "more needs to be done" combatting violence against women.
Part of that effort includes significant Victoria Police resources, both in apprehending and prosecuting offenders and in education.
Victoria Police's fact sheets for sexual offences are here.
Here is an extract:
The police I know have finely calibrated bullshit detectors.
Police commanders in charge of the purse strings apply even more stringent tests before authorising expensive and scarce investigative resources.
Kathy Sherriff is in the terrible position of trying to seek justice against a man improperly insulated by a protection racket. She's had her character attacked, her intentions impugned and her reputation destroyed. But after all the bullshit against her, one fact remains. Kathy is to this day reporting further and better particulars and more evidence against SHORTEN to police, requiring further police investigation. If any of that was knowingly false, police would proceed against Kathy.
You may be interested in the empirical data about Victoria Police and its management of reports of rape, including false reports which have resulted in prosecution of the complainant - here.
False reports do happen and they are prosecuted.
Kathy's report is not false.
Finally, this very clear statement from Victoria Police about circumstances like those in the matters of PELL and SHORTEN where there are only two eye-witnesses to a rape:
That Kathy has been denied justice with her day in court is undeniable.
More broadly Australians have been too.
Collectively, we've allowed Bill Shorten to come within a whisker of being Prime Minister.
I'm not judging Shorten's guilt or innocence - I am saying there's a credible prima-facie case against him which he's been able to dismiss with a manifestly insufficient claim of innocence.
Those closest to Shorten lay claim to the high ground on the protection of women.
Chloe Shorten chose to become involved in the election politicking giving an exclusive interview to the Future Women magazine. I feel for Mrs Shorten and I've given considerable thought as to whether or not to include reference to Mrs Shorten here. In the end it was Mrs Shorten who chose to become publicly involved and it was Mr Shorten who selected violence against women as her number one campaign issue. It's a matter then for Mrs Shorten and the Labor women close to SHORTEN to satisfy themselves that their own house is in order before lecturing others.
Chloe Shorten cites the fundamental right of women to live free from violence as her number one policy priority.
Kathy Sherriff lives every day of her life with the constant reminder of the night a manipulative, cunning and violent young thug plied her with alcohol, chased, isolated and raped her.
Kathy's Life Matters Too.