Let me just say I accept that Christian Porter believes what he says about the sexual assault allegations against him. I also thank him for having the guts to hold a press conference to answer questions. It cannot have been easy, although perhaps easier than hearing whispers in the corridors abruptly terminated as he approaches.
Speaking about sexual assault is never easy for any of us. Perhaps the minister's experience will be a lesson for his colleagues.
I am sure many of you will be furious with me for recognising his effort. But here is the thing: it no longer matters what you think or what I think. In the long term, Christian Porter's political career is over. The tears he shed on Wednesday were clearly from stress, but they also must have been tears of regret. He has lost the future he thought he had.
If he ever returns to the role of Attorney-General, it will only be for a brief time. There can be no more prestigious frontbench roles. He might end up as the minister for whatever politicians call people in regional Australia that they want to keep happy, but never do.
But Porter will never be prime minister. He can't be. There will always be the lingering question in the minds of many. Did he? Did he do it? These stories can never be unread. And now the family of the woman who died by suicide is backing an inquiry. Unlike the Prime Minister. How fascinating it will be to see what such an inquiry finds. Is the Attorney-General fit to hold his position?
Just for the record, the director of Monash University's Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Kate Fitz-Gibbon, tells me it is rare - very rare - for a woman to make a false allegation of rape.
I doubt, in the lifetime of this government, we will see women considered as people, as equals.
"It is important for the community to recognise women don't gain anything from making false allegations," Fitz-Gibbon says.
"The process victims go through when they report a sexual offence can be extremely traumatising and confronting.
"This is not a process women sign up for to game the system."
It happens, but it is unusual.
The immediate problem for Porter is that accusation of sexual assault. It can't be dealt with to anybody's satisfaction, despite the Prime Minister's assertion the presumption of innocence must be maintained. The alleged victim is no longer alive to make her case. Porter may be doing his best to dampen discussion by securing a top defamation lawyer, and perhaps securing funds for his post-political life, but he will never get his reputation back. Not now. Not ever.
Here we are, a few days out from International Women's Day. I have never wanted to cancel anything quite as badly as this. It is meant to be a day of celebration, but we have nothing to celebrate. Murders, rapes, assaults, hospitalisations, workplace sexual and other harassment. Unemployment and poverty. Wage gaps, glass ceilings, glass cliffs.
All the while caring for our parents (whom we are desperate to keep out of aged care homes), our children, our siblings, our friends. And a political class which describes itself as big swinging dicks, drawing on the phrase used by author Michael Lewis in his book Liar's Poker.
These men act accordingly. IWD is just more work for women. Be on a panel or talk for no recognition and even less remuneration. Be happy. Be ambitious. Show your commitment to the cause. Be part of the team. Onward. Upwards. Go team!
All we have to celebrate, really, is our rage.
Unfortunately, the team is unrelentingly male in both composition and in intent. Even the women on the team denigrate other women, or are completely absent in their support of other women. Where is Marise Payne, the Minister for Women, when you need her? When we all need her?
Will Payne attend the March4Justice, scheduled across Australia for March 15, to show her commitment? Thousands and thousands of women are planning to rally, to demand justice for women. Will Payne and other women join them? So far neither Payne nor Linda Reynolds, two of the most senior women in government, have demonstrated any solidarity with women of any kind. Instead they support Christian Porter, temporarily the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations.
It would be easy for Porter to blame the woman whose allegations of violent sexual assault he rejected in his press conference on Wednesday. But he has no capital to draw on.
While he was minister for social services, he oversaw the destruction of the national sexual assault and counselling hotline, 1800 RESPECT, moving it from a women-led service to one which became part of Medibank, a company now profiting from rape. When the Australian Services Union and others spoke up, he labelled the campaign "disgusting and misleading".
Natalie Lang, branch secretary of the Australian Services Union (NSW & ACT Services Branch), says there are other instances where Porter abandoned women. The diminution of the Family Court was, of course, one example, but Porter has made it quite clear he doesn't support family violence leave either. He is also part of a government set to slash funding to homelessness services and refuges. Homelessness Australia estimates cutting nearly $57 million from services will mean more than 500 fewer front-line workers, and more women and children fleeing violence being turned away. That's on this government.
Certainly, from a political point of view, he is not a friend to women - which makes it hard for women to trust him. It also doesn't help his brand that he was one of the politicians pinged on the Four Corners episode Inside the Canberra Bubble, reported by Louise Milligan, where it was alleged he was seen "kissing and cuddling" a young woman staffer at a popular bar. In the meantime, he has had two marriages fall apart. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
All of this takes place under the Prime Minister's watch. The leader who can't hold a hose, administer a vaccine or end gendered injustice.
I doubt, in the lifetime of this government, we will see women considered as people, as equals. They are instead "lying cows".
More likely, lying in wait.
- Jenna Price is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and a regular columnist.