Malcolm Turnbull said Christian Porter’s decision to accept money without knowing the source was an “extraordinary repeal of liability,” after the former attorney general said part of his legal fees were paid by unknown donors.
Porter, the Minister of Industry and Science, updated his register of interest on Monday to include the Legal Services Trust, which contributed in an unknown way to its legal fees in a defamation case dropped against ABC and the reporter Louise Milligan.
Porter said he had “no access to information about the conduct and financing of the trust.”
Speaking to ABC radio on Wednesday, Turnbull expressed concern about the implications of the liability, saying he was “stunned that Porter thinks he can get away” by accepting donations without knowing the source.
“I will be even more amazed if the Prime Minister allows this to be maintained,” said the former Prime Minister.
“It is a shocking affront to transparency.”
Turnbull, who was Prime Minister from 2015 to 2018, during which time he promoted Porter to his former attorney general portfolio, said it was “wrong” and he was “astonished” that MPs could accept donations from unknown sources in a personal capacity, a practice that has been prohibited for political parties.
“What Porter is saying is that it is okay for an Australian minister, a former attorney general, to take a big donation, a big gift for himself, without revealing who the donor was and apparently without him. know who the donor was. ” said Turnbull.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended Porter’s actions, saying he disclosed the donation according to the rules and blamed the opposition for criticism, which he called “vicious personal defamation.”
“The point about Christian Porter’s legal defense is that he hasn’t used taxpayer money and that’s very important,” Frydenberg said in an interview with Sky News.
“Labor will continue with their vicious personal campaigns and smears. I don’t think Australians have time for this.
Porter launched a libel suit against the public broadcaster in May following an online article claiming that an unidentified minister was charged with rape in January 1988 in a file sent to Scott Morrison and three other parliamentarians.
Porter subsequently identified himself as the minister and vigorously denied the allegations.
In late May, Porter agreed to end the libel action, following mediation with the CBA. The broadcaster agreed to add an editor’s note to the original article stating that it did not intend to suggest Porter committed the alleged infringement and that “both parties accept that some readers have misinterpreted the article as a charge of guilt against Mr. Porter. This reading, which was not wanted by the ABC, is regretted.
The CBA agreed to pay Porter’s mediation fees, but no compensation.
Porter did not want to say who was financing his business, despite repeated questions. His statement was the first glimpse of where the funds were coming from.
Overnight, Turnbull tweeted his concerns about Porter’s explanation, calling it ‘bogus’ and that ‘it’s like saying’ my legal fees were paid by a masked guy who dropped off a full straw bag. silver “.
Mark Dreyfus of the Labor Party said the Australian people “deserve to know” who is giving funds to their politicians.
“The Australian people need to know who created this trust, who funded it, how much they gave and whether they expected to receive anything in return for these donations,” he said.
“If Mr. Porter really doesn’t know who his donors are, he shouldn’t be accepting their money. Did the money come from criminals? A foreign power? Apparently, Mr. Porter doesn’t care.
Porter’s office did not respond to questions about whether the minister can rule out money coming from banned donors.
A spokesperson said he undertook the disclosure in accordance with the registry’s requirements, but declined to say how much Porter’s charges were covered.
“No taxpayer money has been used to cover the costs of the minister’s actions against ABC and Milligan, which are now complete,” he said.
Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions about whether Porter’s statement complied with ministerial standards