Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Christian Porter was the former Attorney-General of Australia between 2017 and 2021 under the Turnbull and Morrison Coalition Governments. Mr. Porter became embroiled in legal proceedings and media scrutiny after he was accused of a historical rape in March of 2021. In August of 2022, the court ordered that certain documents related to the case be suppressed.
ABC Defamation Case & Blind Trust
In March of 2021, Mr. Porter launched a defamation claim against the ABC and their reporter, Louise Milligan, for publishing the rape allegations against him. The case was settled outside of court in May of 2021 with the ABC agreeing to add an editor’s note within the article stating that there was no intent to suggest Mr. Porter had committed the alleged crime and admitting that some readers had misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr. Porter, which the ABC regretted.
In September of 2021, Mr. Porter declared that a portion of his legal fees for the defamation dispute were provided by a blind trust, the Legal Services Trust, but from an unknown source. Then-Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, declared that while there was a “prima facie case” to investigate Mr. Porter for an alleged breach of the rules regarding disclosure of donations for legal cases, he also added that this “does not imply a conclusion that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred.”
The following month, then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison blocked an investigation into Mr. Porter’s blind trust, but insisted that the matter had been referred to the chair of the privileges committee to consider.
The Albanese Labor Government has since introduced a new ministerial code of conduct which prevents the use of blind trusts seen in the case of Mr. Porter.
Due to legal complications regarding a potential witness for the ABC during the defamation proceedings, Mr. Porter’s defamation barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, was banned from representing him. Mr. Porter attempted to appeal this decision in April of 2022.
Secrecy of Defamation Court Case Files
In August of 2022, Mr. Porter was ordered to pay legal costs totalling $430,000 after failing to overturn Ms. Chrysanthou’s disqualification. Along with this order, the court ordered non-redacted versions of specific exhibits from the case to be suppressed and kept secret for at least a decade, with one document to be hidden until 2052.
Prosecution of Whistleblower David McBride
In Mr. Porter's time as Attorney-General he oversaw the beginning of the prosecution of Army Lawyer David McBride. Mr. McBride had initially taken steps within the military to highlight evidence of alleged war crimes and, when no action was taken, he leaked this evidence to the Australia press. Mr. McBride is now facing up to 50 years imprisonment for his actions.