Christian Porter has resigned from his post as Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology a week after revealing he received donations to help fund his defamation case against the ABC for its coverage of his sexual assault allegations. The funds were provided to Porter via a blind trust, which was set up so Porter did not know how much money he received, where it came from, and who manages it.
The resignation was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday afternoon.
The prime minister said Porter chose to resign due to a “conflict of interest” existing between protecting the identity of the donors and not distracting government from its work.
“Ultimately, I decided that if I have to make a choice between seeking to pressure the Trust to break individuals’ confidentiality in order to remain in Cabinet, or alternatively forego my Cabinet position, there is only one choice I could, in all conscience, make. Consequently, I provided the Prime Minister with my resignation earlier today,” Porter said in a subsequent statement.
In that statement, Porter also took the opportunity to continue denying the sexual assault accusations that were laid against him, saying the ABC ignited a “trial by media” based around a narrative presuming guilt.
“Having set in motion its trial by accusation, the ABC unleashed the Twitter version of an angry mob. In this online mob environment the mere accusation — reported by Australia’s national broadcaster — was determined adequate to assign guilt, with no regard to evidence or, indeed, lack of evidence,” he said.
“All that seemed to matter was the fact that the accusation had been made and the identity of the person accused.”
Porter in March sued the ABC over one of its online articles, which alleged an unidentified cabinet minister was accused of rape in January 1988 in a dossier sent to Morrison and three other parliamentarians.
Almost immediately after the article was published, Porter identified himself as the unidentified minister and denied the allegations.
Porter eventually dropped the lawsuit after the ABC agreed to add an editor’s note to the article, stating that it did not intend to suggest Porter had committed the alleged offence and that the accusations could not be substantiated to a legal standard.
“Both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted,” the editor’s note said.
The ABC also agreed to pay Porter’s costs of mediation, but no damages were given.
Taking Porter’s place will be Angus Taylor, who will perform the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology responsibilities alongside his current ones for Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Both departments will sit within Taylor’s portfolio, Morrison said.
Prior to these two appointments, Angus Taylor was previously the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security and Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation.
Opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, called out Porter and the federal government shortly after the announcement, saying the former minister was still in breach of his obligations by not disclosing the trust donors.
“He needs to answer where this money came from. Members of Parliament, as well as ministers, just can’t accept money from anonymous donors for a private legal matter.” Albanese said.
“Scott Morrison should, just once, fess up with Christian Porter, say where this money came from, how much of it was there, and why was it given. These are all questions that demand answers.”
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