When McLachlan did an exclusive television interview with Channel Seven to present his side of the story, he told viewers: “I want the world to know that I am sitting here today 100 per cent acquitted. I’m an innocent man.”
However he still has to live with Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington’s findings, which described McLachlan this way: “Overall, he was not an impressive witness.“
Wallington described the four complainants as “brave and honest witnesses” and almost entirely accepted their evidence that McLachlan did what they said he did. But she was not persuaded that he knew they were not consenting.
In her final comments, Wallington noted the law regarding consent in indecent assault cases in Victoria had changed since 2014, the time at the centre of the claims. “Were the current law applicable, it is possible that the result may be different,” she determined.
Senior corporate and political communications advisor Sue Cato has seen it all before, but agrees a different set of rules applies to those in politics than in other public arenas.
“With regard to high-profile people, it takes more than a flimsy apology,” Cato says. “You need to be able to demonstrate that you know what you did was wrong and be able to give comfort about why it won’t happen again and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Repeat offenders find it harder to win back trust.
“Politics is different. We have a collective view of many politicians and have set our expectations accordingly. The recent phoenix rising out of the ashes is an instance where the people granting absolution did so because they thought it was in their political interests. The apology for past issues came later and that was for the electorate more so than colleagues.
“There has been a marked change in the last decade in what the electorate is prepared to tolerate. What once would have been unrecoverable, now gets a mere shake of the head.”
On Monday Joyce told Federal Parliament: “Hopefully, one learns from their mistakes and makes a better person of themselves.”
Joyce also followed a well-worn path after he resigned as Nationals leader, allowing the cameras into his home with partner Vikki Campion during a somewhat cringe-inducing attempt to explain their relationship after the birth of their first child.
Joyce was adamant he and Campion “didn’t stumble into this like we were kids” and hadn’t set out to hurt anyone with their affair. Campion added: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.”
And apparently nor can the voting public.
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