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Christian Porter announces resignation

Following a tumultuous year complete with a rape allegation coming to light, costly defamation action, a move to the backbench, conflict of interest concerns and the more recent controversies behind a blind legal trust, former Attorney-General Christian Porter has announced that he is resigning from federal politics.

user iconNaomi Neilson and Jerome Doraisamy 01 December 2021 Big Law
Christian Porter announces resignation
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In what should wrap up a big year for the former Attorney-General, Mr Porter has confirmed that speculations about his resignation. Since March alone, Mr Porter has navigated several defamation proceedings, many calls for an inquiry into rape allegations that he strenuously denies, and a number of other controversies.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Mr Porter wrote that, before every election, he has "asked myself whether I could absolutely guarantee another three years of total commitment to the electorate because people deserve that commitment, free of any reservations".

"After a long time giving everything I could to the people of Pearce it’s now time to give more of what is left to those around me whose love has been unconditional."


Elsewhere in his statement, Mr Porter noted that there are few, if any, constants left in modern politics.

"Perhaps the only certainty now is that there appears to be no limit to what some will say or allege or do to gain an advantage over a perceived enemy. This makes the harshness that can accompany the privilege of representing people, harder than ever before. But even though I have experienced perhaps more of the harshness of modern politics than most, there are no regrets," he wrote.

"It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with great teams of men and women to drive change and to govern during remarkable times, including the most demanding time for Government since WWII. I feel that not a moment of the last 14 years was wasted and I am thankful for the opportunity and friendship provided by my Parliamentary colleagues and the men and women of the Liberal Party. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, friends and the dedication of staff (some who started with me 20 years ago)."

Ultimately, it has "always started and finished", Mr Porter went on, with the people of his electorate.

"I started with the promise to fix the GST for the people of my electorate and while it took years I was part of the small group in Federal Cabinet that made it happen for WA. Since 2013 I have been dedicated to securing critical funding for projects that had been long neglected and would improve the lives of people in our local community."

The announcement comes after a Guardian Australia report on Monday that Mr Porter had been cleared over his declaration of a blind trust by a privileges parliamentary committee. That same committee concluded that the rules for disclosure should be overhauled to uphold the “integrity” of the register of interests.

From an article through to a blind trust: How did Porter end up here?

Although Mr Porter and his alleged treatment of women were first reported in a Four Corners’ episode back in November 2020, it was an ABC article published in March this year that really put things in motion. The article, which referred to a nameless senior minister, published details of a dossier from a woman who said that she had been raped multiple times at 16 after a debating competition in Sydney.

Mr Porter, who denied the allegations, said that in the weeks following the publication of this article, rumours began to circulate and, before long, he was identified as the senior minister. In a press conference, Mr Porter said he had been the victim of a “whisper campaign” and said he would be taking time away from politics to consider his options, including legal advice about pursuing defamation.

During that same press conference, Mr Porter also told media that there would be “no rule of law left to protect” if he were to stand down from his then-position as Attorney-General – a statement that left many in the profession concerned and eager to clarify what the rule of law really means. Marque Lawyers managing director Michael Bradley, for instance, told Lawyers Weekly that it was “regrettable”.

Mr Porter returned briefly to his role as Attorney-General and announced that he would be launching defamation action against the ABC, alongside a star-studded legal team. Given his role as Attorney-General and his appointments of Federal Court judges, this meant standing down from his position in what he then believed would be for a temporary period. Michaelia Cash has since been officially appointed.

Mr Porter would later claim his defamation action as a win, despite the ABC not needing to pay any compensation that he requested. Instead, an author’s note was added to the article clarifying that Mr Porter would not be found guilty of an of the allegations under a criminal or civil court and that it did not intend to implicate him in sexual assault allegations that took place long before his political career took off.

Meanwhile, running simultaneously was a separate proceeding brought by the woman’s friend, Jo Dyer, who claimed that Mr Porter’s star defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou had a conflict of interest because of a prior professional lawyer/client relationship. Ms Dyer won that matter, removing Ms Chrysanthou from the legal team. This isn’t quite over yet, with Mr Porter filing an appeal to be heard soon.

On top of all of this were calls from within government and the legal profession calling for an inquiry into the rape allegations. The dossier was released to the public – and you can read it here, but we strongly suggest doing so with caution given the level of details in the allegations – which in turn inspired The New Liberals (TNL) to announce its plans for private action against Mr Porter. This too, much like the appeal for Ms Chrysanthou, is yet to come to fruition but plans are being made.

A bill to launch an official and independent inquiry was shut down in parliament many times and is unlikely to ever really take off. Instead, it was overshadowed by new details that Mr Porter’s legal fees were paid by a blind legal trust. He claimed that as he was the potential beneficiary, he had no access to information about the trust’ conduct, information or who the donors behind it are.

Although the Morrison Government insisted he was in the right with the declaration, the controversies behind the legal trust and who exactly was paying for his fees eventually led to Mr Porter’s announcement he would be leaving the frontbench.

In about 1,600 words, Mr Porter used a statement announcing his move to the backbench to blame his downfall on the ABC and the “trial by media”. He said that from the moment the article was published, “I entered what appears to me now to be an inescapable media frenzy where evidence, or in this case the lack of it, appeared to be irrelevant”. These sentiments are still carried to this day.

His appetite for legal action has seemingly only increased since. Although the ABC defamation may be over, Mr Porter has instead taken aim at a child abuse survivor and advocate over comments she made on a picture of him. The notice was served to the survivor along with one from journalist Peter van Onselen and fellow politician Andrew Laming in the same email.

While it is not yet known what Mr Porter will do next, some have theorised a return to the legal profession, and perhaps the bar specifically. Only time will tell.