Former Attorney-General Christian Porter has resigned as a minister after news broke last week that the 51-year-old’s defamation case legal fees were paid for by a mystery trust.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Porter’s resignation in a press conference on Sunday afternoon, telling reporters Porter resigned because he was unable to disclose who paid for his legal bill in a defamation trial against the ABC.
“The inability for him to be able to practically provide further information because of the nature of those arrangements, if he were able to do that, that would allow Mr Porter to conclusively rule out a perceived conflict,” he said.
“And as a result of him acknowledging that, he has this afternoon taken the appropriate course of action to uphold those standards by tendering his resignation as a minister this afternoon, and I have accepted his resignation.”
Porter revealed last week he had accepted a blind trust called the Legal Services Trust to help cover his legal fees. Porter at the time claimed he won’t be declaring on his register of interests, the identity of the mystery donor who is funding his legal fees – which could run as high as $1 million – because he does not know who they are, but remained adamant that no taxpayer funds were being used.
Following this, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched a scathing attack against the minister. In a report published on news.com.au, Turnbull said the mystery legal fund was “unacceptable” and “did not pass the pub test.”
“It’s like saying ‘my legal fees were paid by a guy in a mask who dropped off a chaff bag full of cash’,’’ Turnbull said at the time.
“In Porter’s case, the trustee doesn’t tell him (supposedly) who contributed the money to pay his legal fees. So zero transparency, zero accountability.
“With a typical blind trust you know where the money came from. It is contributed by the beneficiary on the basis that the trustee then invests it in assets without reference to the beneficiary who is ‘blind’ as to how their money is invested.”
In March this year, Porter – who is now the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology – launched a defamation case against the ABC over its reporting of a rape allegation involving a Federal Cabinet Minister and a woman, who is now deceased.
Porter, whose lawyers insisted was identifiable as the Minister in question, denied the claims with the case being settled before trial and the ABC paying $100,000 in costs as well as issuing an editor’s note stating ‘regret’ if some followers had read the article as a guilty accusation levelled at Porter.