The prime minister appeared in public with Christian Porter for the first time since the senior cabinet minister was stripped of his Attorney-General role. The two were spotted together during a media event in Perth on Wednesday afternoon. Mr Porter has been embroiled in controversy since revealing himself as the minister at the center of a historic rape allegation involving a 16-year-old girl in 1988, a claim he emphatically denies.
He has never been charged, and police confirmed: “insufficient evidence” to proceed with an investigation, labeling the matter “closed”. The controversy has plagued the government over many weeks, however, with Scott Morrison being criticized by the opposition and broader public over the handling of the matter and Brittany Higgins’ claim she was raped in parliament by a former Liberal staffer. In mid-March, Mr. Porter launched defamation proceedings against ABC and its journalist Louise Milligan, claiming he had been subjected to “trial by media” about the historical allegations. A Four Corners reporter, Milligan, broke the news an anonymous letter outlining the unsubstantiated allegations had been sent to Mr. Morrison, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong and Greens senator Sarah-Hanson-Young.
Milligan did not name Mr. Porter, referring to a “senior cabinet minister,” but revealed himself publicly days later. In a statement from Mr. Porter’s lawyers confirming the defamation proceedings, it was claimed that despite not being named, “the article made allegations against a senior cabinet minister and the Attorney-General was easily identifiable to many Australians as the subject of the allegations.
Over the last few weeks, the Attorney-General has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations. The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings. Mr. Porter was stripped of his Attorney-General duties at the end of March. Amid criticism, the role created a conflict of interest given his decision to launch defamation proceedings against ABC. He now serves as the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.