Why Luke Foley's Defamation Case May Never Wind Up In Court
There are two sides to every politician: the public and the private. Think of it like a piece of bread.
In Luke Foley’s case, it’s clear his “public” side is toast. The blackest, most severely burnt toast. There’s no saving it, and it’s already in the bin.
What’s less clear is the “private” side of his life: his marriage, his personal reputation, his future career prospects. Is it burnt too? Can he scrape the charred bits off with a knife, slap a bit of butter on, and save it?
I suspect this is why he shocked everybody with his declaration yesterday that he’s called in the lawyers.
His leadership days are done, but maybe there’s a marriage to save, maybe he’s trying to salvage just a piece of his reputation as he walks out the door.
“I've retained solicitors and senior counsel to advise on the immediate commencement of defamation proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia,” Foley declared.
“The allegations made against me today made public by the ABC are false.”
But which parts of the detailed ABC statement released four hours earlier was he referring to? He didn’t actually specify.
Is it false that he put his hands down journalist Ashleigh Raper’s underpants and rested it on her buttocks during a Christmas function in 2016?
Is it false that this was witnessed by another journalist?
Is it false that he phoned Raper about it — twice — just in recent days?
Or is it false that he promised Raper he would resign and then reneged “on legal advice”?
Luke Foley was in and out of his media conference room in exactly 60 seconds. One photographer actually timed it to the second. His statement was brief, and deliberately so.
He didn’t say whether the whole ABC statement was a lie, or just a part of it.
One imagines there are phone records, and that Raper -- like most journos -- kept detailed notes of her conversations.
It will be interesting to see whether Foley actually follows through with his legal threat.
Labor HQ certainly doesn’t want him to. And won’t be picking up the bill either.
So it will be expensive.
For him, for his party, and for Raper, who — it’s worth pointing out — never wanted any of this public in the first place.
Every text message, every little comment, every action, every little part of Foley's career and private life could be analysed in open court.
No politician wants that.
But it would likely mean that Raper has her private life picked apart too, despite never asking for her allegation to be made public.
Does Raper deserve that treatment?
Luke Foley wants to remain on the backbench as the MP for Auburn, and an election is four months away.
Put aside the personal for one moment and imagine the political “optics” of a man dragging a woman though the courts for privately claiming she’s been indecently assaulted, and then asking the electorate to vote for him.
I suspect, when he takes a breath, Foley may choose to avoid that court room after all.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org