Politics

Christian Porter’s Legal Fee Donations Won’t Be Investigated After Coalition Blocked The Bid

Scott Morrison has called for clarification of the donor rules from the Parliamentary privileges committee.

christian porter blind trust

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A bid to have former Attorney-General Christian Porter investigated over anonymous legal fee donations has been blocked by the Coalition, prompting a broader inquiry into donor rules.

Porter resigned from his position on the frontbench back in September after public scrutiny over the fact that part of his legal fees for the defamation case against the ABC had been covered by anonymous donors.

On Wednesday, the Coalition blocked a bid to have Porter investigated over his financial disclosures — or lack thereof — with Porter insisting that he acted completely within the scope of disclosure laws at the time. Porter also argued that those who contributed to his “blind trust” should not have to go public.

There is no assertion that Porter knowingly received funds from illegal donors. The decision comes after Labor asked the Speaker to consider referring the situation to the House Privileges Committee to investigate whether or not he was in breach of parliamentary rules.

“Based on my careful consideration of all of the information available to me, I am satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out,” Smith told the House on Wednesday, allowing the motion to be debated. “An opinion by the Speaker that a prima facie case has been made out does not imply a conclusion that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred.

“In giving precedence for a motion to be moved, I’m simply allowing the House the opportunity to consider a motion immediately, and debate and decide on whether the matter should be referred to the committee for inquiry and report.”

However, the motion was eventually defeated 52 to 49. Following the decision not to investigate Porter’s use of funds, Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for a broader inquiry into anonymous donations rules to be established.

“There are many other members of parliament who have been in this situation, about how they fund legal costs, to pursue defamation actions,” Morrison said, asking Parliament’s privileges committee to clarify the rules. “And it’s not just one member, there are other members, and we’ve got to get the rules clear.”

Labor has already criticised the decision, with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese asserting it is a distraction from Porter’s situation. “A prima facie¬†[on first impression] case was found by the Speaker of the House of Representatives¬†that was rejected by the government,” Mr Albanese said. “And, of course [House Leader] Peter Dutton, knowing he was going to do that, set up a look-over-here example.”

There’s no word yet on when we can expect the rules to be clarified.