Christian Porter is something of a cliché. Brilliant, charming, gifted, but apparently a tortured soul. Searching for what? Authenticity, or respite from all the privilege and expectations, piled onto his young shoulders? Could he be the lonely high achiever, doomed to be separated from his fellows by his towering intellect, and his looming date with destiny?
Born into an established and high profile Liberal Party family, it was always expected that he would achieve greatness. He was educated at Hale School in Perth, an exclusive and expensive old college. Its secondary fees begin at around $27,000 a year, plus. Its grounds are immaculate, and extensive. Its strict uniform policy is rigidly applied.
It is not clear when Christian Porter took up the demon drink, but it seems he was an enthusiast while still at the University of Western Australia. It did not diminish his academic abilities, however. He completed three degrees while there; a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Arts (Politics) and Law. He later attended the London School of Economics, where he obtained a Master of Science (Political Theory). He topped his class.
So why does he consistently take aim at his own feet? He has suffered a shattering fall from grace, compounded by a seeming inability to regulate his own behaviour. He is now seen as arrogant, narcissistic and self-destructive, and with a tin ear. His drinking is seen as problematic, and his attitude to women has been front and centre. His legalistic bluster has proved ineffective at redeeming his reputation.
The Four Corners program, and its consequences
The ABC’s Four Corners program aired on November 9, 2020. Titled “Inside the Canberra Bubble”, it detailed allegations of inappropriate conduct and extramarital affairs by Attorney-General Christian Porter and Population Minister Alan Tudge, with female ministerial staffers.
Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher agreed that one of his senior staff questioned the program’s bona fides, before its release, but it was shown, as scheduled. Porter denied the allegations made against him, and indicated that he was ‘considering his legal options’. He did not follow through with his threat to sue.
Barrister Kathleen Foley was quoted on the program, based on her knowledge of him when they were at university together. She said she believed he was “deeply sexist” and a “misogynist”. She provided examples, which must have been damaging to his standing amongst women.
Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year on 25 January, 2021. She was the inspiration for Brittany Higgins, helping her to find the courage to come forward and to divulge her own story. She did so on 15 February, which caused the Morrison Government to scramble to protect itself. Morrison initiated enquiries into who knew what, and when. Unsurprisingly, the enquiries are still ongoing, with no results.
Anonymous letter sent to selected politicians
On 26 February 2021 the ABC published an anonymous letter, which accused a Cabinet Minister of an historical rape. The Cabinet Minister was not named. The letter had been sent to several politicians, including the Prime Minister, which made it impossible to ignore. Although the Minister was not named, Twitter settled on Porter’s name quite quickly, which caused much innuendo and tension.
Porter made much of protecting his reputation, when he fronted the media, to name himself as the alleged rapist. Although he strenuously denied the allegation, the earlier Four Corners episode had unearthed aspects of his personality, and of his personal style, which had started as a trickle, but which would become an avalanche, of suspicion and distrust.
The country was divided. Morrison sat on the fence, but he stonewalled, with nonsensical arguments about the sanctity of the ‘rule of law’. He also denied reading the letter. So we were faced with a farcical situation where the accused Minister, and the Prime Minister, both professed to not having read the letter. As one is forced to acknowledge when discussing the Morrison Government, I am not making this up.
Morrison stood by his man, until it was inconvenient. He then demoted him to Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Porter has been criticised for ‘going missing’ in his new role, although he has stayed in the newspapers.
Legal actions, and their payment
He sued the ABC, and its journalist, Louise Milligan, for defamation, but he then discontinued the action. He claimed victory, but he received no damages. The ABC agreed to pay for the mediation costs. There has been relative quiet, apart from Porter’s reported sorties to the courts, where he has sought to permanently remove the ABC’s defence from public scrutiny. His costs have presumably continued to accumulate.
On Monday, September 13 Christian Porter updated his register of interests. In it he stated that a portion of his legal fees had been paid by an anonymous donor, or donors. This of course has unleashed a huge controversy, about transparency and accountability. These are sensitive areas for Porter, considering he has been accused of previously stalling on an Integrity Commission. For nearly three years! Great job, Christian!
Ex Prime Ministers, many eminent judges and even the current Prime Minister have questioned the morality, and or the optics of the donation, with its attendant potential for corruption, blackmail, or even threats to national security. The greatest casualty has been Porter’s reputation. If it was not irredeemably in tatters already, it surely is now. Porter looks to be yesterday’s man.
In breaking news, Porter has ‘resigned’ from the Ministry, but in an apparent deal he continues in Parliament, but he gets to keep the cash. Morrison is thus spared the indignity of calling a by-election, which he would lose. This Government defies all laws, of morality, and even of gravity. How does it remain in power?