Saturday 23rd of October 2021

salvaging porter's tattered reputation...


Media organisations, including News Corporation and Nine Newspapers, have been blocked from publishing any of the ABC's un-redacted defence in its defamation battle with former federal attorney-general Christian Porter.

Key points:
  • Only a small part of the ABC's defence has been made public
  • It details a case relying on qualified privilege, truth and the implied right to freedom of political communication
  • Mr Porter settled with the ABC with no damages paid at the end of May, before any of the case could be contested in the Federal Court

Mr Porter took legal action against the ABC in the Federal Court over a story about an unnamed Cabinet minister accused of an alleged historical rape.

Mr Porter revealed himself to be the subject of the allegations but categorically denied any wrongdoing.

When the ABC lodged its defence ahead of a hearing, Mr Porter immediately applied for a suppression, claiming the material breached Federal Court rules.

Only a small part of the defence was made public, detailing a case relying on qualified privilege, truth and the implied right to freedom of political communication.

But at the end of May, before any of the case could be contested in the Federal Court, Mr Porter settled with the ABC with no damages paid.

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Industry Minister Christian Porter has been forced to resign from cabinet after declining to seek and provide to Scott Morrison the names of the anonymous benefactors who have helped fund his legal costs.

Morrison has appointed energy minister Angus Taylor acting industry minister and sources say he is likely to continue in the dual role.

Porter’s resignation comes as Newspoll shows the government slightly reducing Labor’s two-party lead, from 54-46% to 53-47%. Labor’s primary vote fell 2 points to 38%; the Coalition rose a point to 37%.

Both leaders took hits in approval: Morrison is on a net negative of minus 4, while Anthony Albanese is on a net negative of minus 11. Morrison’s lead as better PM has fallen to 47-35%, from 50-34% three weeks ago – this is the closest since March last year.


In a three-page statement, Porter renewed his attack on the ABC and said a statement provided by the now-deceased woman who accused him of historical rape – which he denies – showed the allegation lacked credibility and was written by someone “very unwell”.

Porter is keeping the funds donated to a “blind trust”, the amount of which is unknown. He also says he will seek to run again in his Western Australian seat of Pearce, which is on a 5.2% margin.

Last week, Porter updated his parliamentary register of interests to reveal a “part contribution” to his legal bills for his (now settled) defamation case against the ABC from “a blind trust known as the Legal Services Trust”. Porter said he did not know the names of donors.

Morrison asked his department to advise whether the arrangement breached ministerial standards.

But Morrison indicated at a news conference on Sunday he and Porter had finalised his future ahead of the advice.

Morrison was clearly anxious to have it settled before his trip to the United States, so it would not be a distraction during what he hopes will be a time of positive news following last week’s announcement of the AUKUS security agreement.

Bad publicity around Porter has been a running sore for the government for much of the year.

The historical rape allegation surfaced publicly in February, when the ABC reported material about it had been sent to several politicians, including the prime minister. Porter was not named but later identified himself, declaring the alleged assault had never happened.

Initially, he hoped to retain his position as attorney-general, but this was politically untenable and he was moved to the industry job in a reshuffle.

With an outcry over the “blind trust” and an election approaching next year, Morrison could not afford another prolonged scandal around Porter. He indicated Porter’s future was in doubt when he said last week he was taking the matter very seriously.

Morrison said on Sunday that in their discussions, Porter had been unable to “practically provide further information because of the nature of those [trust] arrangements”. 

That Porter couldn’t provide the information meant he could not conclusively rule out a perceived conflict of interest. 

Morrison said Porter was upholding the ministerial standards by resigning.

Porter said in his statement that while he had no right of access to the trust’s funding or conduct, he had asked the trustee for an assurance, which he received, “that none of the contributors were lobbyists or prohibited foreign entities.

"This additional information was provided as part of my Ministerial disclosure,” he said.

He said no doubt the desire of some or many of the donors to remain anonymous was driven by wanting to avoid “trial by mob”.

Porter said he believed that he had provided the information required under the Members’ Register of Interests, and that the additional disclosures he provided under the Ministerial Standards were in accord with its additional requirements. 

“However, after discussing the matter with the Prime Minister I accept that any uncertainty on this point provides a very unhelpful distraction for the Government in its work.” 

He said to the extent the uncertainty might be resolved by seeking further information about donors’ identities, “this would require me to put pressure on the Trust to provide me with information to which I am not entitled. 

"I am not prepared to seek to break the confidentiality of those people who contributed to my legal fees under what are well-known and regular legal structures, including the confidentiality attached to the Trust contribution,” Porter said.

He had explained he “could not assist any process that would ultimately allow people who have done nothing wrong to become targets of the social media mob.”

“Ultimately, I decided that if I have to make a choice between seeking to pressure the Trust to break individuals’ confidentiality in order to remain in Cabinet, or alternatively forego my Cabinet position, there is only one choice I could, in all conscience, make.” 

In his renewed attack on the ABC, Porter said that “seemingly with great care and effort – [it] has reported only those parts of the information that it has in its possession which feeds into its narrative of guilt.

"I have recently been provided from a source outside the ABC with a copy of the only signed document that the person who made and subsequently withdrew the complaint ever made.

"Many parts of that 88-page document are such that any reasonable person would conclude that they show an allegation that lacks credibility; was based on repressed memory (which has been completely rejected by courts as unreliable and dangerous); which relied on diaries said to be drafted in 1990/91 but which were actually words composed in 2019; and, was written by someone who was, sadly, very unwell.” 

Albanese said Porter needed to answer where the money had come from. He also said Morrison had not sacked Porter – Porter had resigned.


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abuse of office...

Can anyone get a gift of say one million dollar and claim it as a gift, not income? Is there tax to be paid on this money? How can we be sure that Porter did not do favours to the people of the "Blind Trust" — before or after? Can we take his word on it when we know the way he screwed people with Robotdebt? And the way he was screwing "witness K" and his lawyer (still being screwed by Cash, the new AG) for revealing that Howard ministers were doing the dirty on Timor Leste? Is the "blind trust" name damaging the really blind people?


From Mark Dreyfus:


Christian Porter’s claim to have no idea who funded his million dollar legal case is an outrageous abuse of his office.

The declaration filed today by Mr Porter regarding his failed defamation action against the ABC is a disgrace, and the Prime Minister must immediately demand Mr Porter come clean about who his donors are.

The Australian people need to know who set this trust up, who funded it, how much they donated, and whether they expected to get anything in return for these donations.

If Mr Porter genuinely doesn’t know who his donors are he shouldn’t accept their money. Did the money come from criminals? A foreign power? Apparently Mr Porter doesn’t care. 

Other questions Mr Porter must answer include: 

  • Were any of these donors from overseas?
  • Were any of these donors lobbyists?
  • Were any of these donors beneficiaries of decisions made by Mr Porter – or do they stand to benefit from decisions Mr Porter may make in the future? 

The Australian people deserve immediate answers to these questions.





another googly....


Barnaby Joyce’s declaration that “Christian Porter has done nothing illegal by accepting anonymous donations” illuminates much that is wrong in our political space (“Joyce says Porter should get future chance in ‘senior role”’, September 21). In declaring that if something is not illegal, it is acceptable is a morally bankrupt view of life; moral failure appears to be the accepted norm. Sadly, it feels increasingly that “quiet Australians” are powerless to change this behaviour at the ballot box as one set after another of entitled, self selected candidates presents themselves for what they mistakenly believe to be our approval. Selection through compulsory voting does not signify approval, only recognition that we are driven, on pain of punishment, to select the least worst option.

-David MacKintosh, Berkeley Vale


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See also: RESTRICTED — adults only...


and: bad day at the wicket...


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