Home grown violence

posted in: Life and things | 0

It has been a busy week. We in Australia are lucky, living as we do in a stable, safe country. But that’s starting to change. As the world edges closer to war as Iran attacks Israel, here in Australia our comfortable lives, already disturbed by the rise of antisemitism and the rising prevalence of youth crime, have been rocked by home grown violence.

It was a normal Saturday afternoon when people go out to do their shopping, take their kids out to the mall, the usual sorts of family things. But that all changed when 40-year-old Joel Cauchi went to the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in Sydney where he stabbed and killed six, and injured a further twelve people. Five women and one man died, while the injured included a nine-month-old girl. Here’s the story.

The nation was shocked. Things like that rarely happen in Australia, though I expect a similar event in America would have been relegated to page three. Appalling as it is, I wasn’t the only one who was glad the killer didn’t have an AR 15. Six might have been sixty. Thank goodness for Australia’s gun laws.

However, some gun supporters both in Australia and the US claim open carry laws could have prevented the killing spree. “This is why I believe in concealed carry,” wrote American far right personality Tara Bull on X [Twitter]. “How many would’ve survived if there was a good guy with a gun?”

Well, there was a ‘good guy’ with a gun. A police officer killed Cauchi when he lunged at her with the knife.

Cauchi wasn’t a terrorist, he suffered from schizophrenia. I expect he was living through a delusional episode, but we’ll never know. Either way, in this time of increasing violent crime it exacerbates a latent feeling of unease.

Maybe the worldwide publicity from the killings at Bondi was enough to trigger a sixteen-year-old Muslim lad into a knife attack on an Assyrian Christian Bishop as he gave a sermon in Sydney. It happened days after the Bondi murders and has been labelled as a terrorist event. That was bad enough but the riot that ensued where a baying mob outside the church attacked police doing their job was even worse. It’s enough to rattle anybody. Here’s an ABC story on the events. It leaves many of us shaking our heads, asking ourselves how this could happen in Australia?

And then a story we were waiting for – Justice Lee gave his much-anticipated verdict on a civil trial where Bruce Lehrmann sued TV Channel Ten for defamation. The Higgins/Lehrmann saga has been going on for several years and has become so complicated it can’t be summed up in a few sentences. At its core, Brittany Higgins claimed Bruce Lehrmann raped her in an office in Parliament House after a long night of drinking but the ripples spreading out from there have ensnared many people in unexpected ways. It has swallowed up Shane Drumgold, Director of Public Prosecutions in the ACT, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and her chief of staff, Fiona Brown, and several employees of both the seven and ten networks.

Mr Lehrmann faced a criminal trial for rape in the ACT Supreme Court in 2022, which collapsed without a verdict due to juror misconduct. But instead of breathing a huge sigh of relief and walking away, he sued Network Ten for defamation and that trial unearthed all sorts of unsavoury facts. Suffice to say I found Justice Lee’s reconstruction of the events on the night in question absolutely convincing. ABC News has a digestible summary here. “…[Bruce Lehrmann] got out of the lion’s den when [he] managed to escape criminal liability but he went back for his hat to sue for defamation.”

In his summing up, Justice Lee said that Lehrmann was “so intent upon gratification to be indifferent to Ms Higgins’s consent and hence went ahead with sexual intercourse without caring whether she consented”. In other words, he did rape her. Lehrmann will be facing another rape trial for unrelated events in Toowoomba. I expect he’ll ask for a ‘judge only’ trial. I doubt if you’d get an impartial jury anywhere in Australia.

The whole thing has been a sordid (albeit fascinating) mess. Many lies were told on both sides, many reputations besmirched, more than one career destroyed, in what was really a political game. I’m looking forward to the upcoming case where Higgins’s boss at the time, Linda Reynolds, is suing Higgins and her boyfriend, David Sharaz, for defamation.Linda Reynolds and her chief of staff, Fiona Brown, were the only people in the whole sorry saga who Justice Lee saw in a good light. Given his remarks about events at that time, Reynolds has a powerful case. Sharaz has managed to avoid scrutiny so far. I’m also looking forward to an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s payment of $2.4 million in damages to Higgins, given that the claims she made to get the money have been shown to be untrue.

Oh what a tangled web we weave…

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