Porter right to resign from ministry, but it’s not over

By Tom Ravlic

September 21, 2021

Group of friends using their smart mobile smartphones outdoors, risking their personal privacy under privacy laws
The curiosity of anybody who is a journalist, political pundit, and, of course, a user of Twitter, is insatiable, and going to be a problem for Porter. (Image: Adobe/Alessandro Biascioli)


The exit of the Member for Pearce, Christian Porter, from the Morrison ministry was the only possible outcome because Porter was not in a position to disclose the identities of those that had donated to the blind trust that was to assist in the payment of legal bills.

Revealing the blind trust, which was appropriate, in Porter’s disclosure of member’s interest, provided no details of those that had tipped money into that collection tin for legal funds.

This blind trust in a political context was always going to be a problem for Porter because people kicking money into a legal fund would be of immense interest.

The curiosity of anybody who is a journalist, political pundit, and, of course, a user of social media platforms such as Twitter, is insatiable and typically involves people wanting to know things that somebody else says they are not entitled to see or hear.

It is also not the kind of blind trust some folks might be familiar with in the context of the investment of funds to avoid conflict of interest issues in a professional firm setting.

The nature of the arrangement and the inability of the then minister to disclose the donors of the funds to help pay for the exercise in lawfare meant there was little choice because there was no way Porter could guarantee that no conflict of interest existed.

This raises a question about ministerial standards and whether they should proscribe certain kinds of arrangements that are prohibited and would exclude a parliamentarian from taking up a ministry.

It would be one way of creating clarity about the nature of arrangements that would not be consistent with having a role as a minister of the crown and prompt a rethink on the part of people who might consider such arrangements in the future.

Care would need to be taken in the drafting of any additional material so that illustrations of prohibited arrangements do not encourage people to find ways around the proscriptions in ministerial standards.

It is not the end of the examination of such arrangements, however, because the relevant disclosure is made in Porter’s register of interests that is available online and as such the parliament might consider what, if any, further inquiries might be relevant.

This arrangement is disclosed and in the political arena with another round of senate estimates due before too long and media interest will not dissipate just because Porter shuffles off to the back bench.

There are also those commentators and activists on Twitter – the subjects of some choice observations from Porter in a rather lengthy media release issued on Sunday – who will not allow people to forget.


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