Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended attorney-general Christian Porter, describing him as “an innocent man under our law”.
Last week Porter revealed that he is the minister accused of historical rape allegations, by a woman who took her own life last year.
When asked whether it was tenable for Porter to continue in his role — which includes implementing the government’s response to a landmark report on workplace sexual harassment — Morrison said he would not consider giving the job to someone else.
“He’s a fine attorney-general and a fine minister for industrial relations, and he is an innocent man under our law,” Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.
“And to suggest that there should be some different treatment applied to him, based on what have been allegations that the police have closed the matter on, I think that would be grossly inappropriate to take actions against him on that basis.”
Morrison also rejected calls for solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue to assess whether Porter is a fit and proper person to remain as attorney-general.
Former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson made the suggestion on Tuesday, following reports that the South Australian coroner may hold an inquest into the death of Porter’s accuser.
Gleeson noted that an inquest would “never answer the question” of whether Porter was fit for his role.
“The attorney-general is in that incredibly special position, and it’s therefore critical that that person not have justifiable doubts about their fitness and propriety hanging over them,” he told the ABC.
“It is no part of a coronial inquest to express an opinion upon whether any person is fit and proper to hold high executive office in Australia.”
Morrison said that while Gleeson was “entitled to his view”, he had not received that advice from his department.
The PM also brushed off questions regarding reports that Porter has been referred to the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia by a group of high-profile academics.
“It’s been brought to my attention, but that’s a matter for them. All I know is what the criminal law procedures are,” Morrison said.
“And I know that in this case, they have been followed and the rule of law applies in this country and applies equally to every single Australian.”
Morrison has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent inquiry to be conducted into the allegations against Porter.