Former Attorney-General Christian Porter has just revealed that a blind trust will contribute to his infamous defamation suit’s legal fees — but he won’t be declaring who the mystery donors are, because he doesn’t actually know. Just a normal day in Aussie politics.
There’s been lots of interest surrounding how Christian Porter is covering the fees of his months-long legal battle with the ABC.
In case you missed it, Christian Porter launched defamation proceedings against the ABC and Four Corners investigative reporter Louise Mulligan for a story that aired allegations of rape against a cabinet Minister. Porter came out and publicly confirmed he was the Minister in question, strenuously denied the allegations, and claimed trial by media. The case has since been settled out of court. You can read more about it here.
Porter’s legal fees are estimated to be as high as $1 million, but his annual salary is $370,000. Which is obviously a lot of money to be earned, but certainly not enough to pay a $1 million bill.
News.com.au asked wealthy Aussies like Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, Nev Power and Gina Rinehart if they were contributing to the case, but they’ve denied involvement. It’s been confirmed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that tax-payers won’t be footing the bill, either. So, the million dollar question (literally) is how the fuck is Porter going to pay for all this?
Well, it’s since been revealed that part of Porter’s legal fees were paid by a blind trust with funds from an unknown source.
Totally cool that a government minister doesn’t know who paid his legal fees. Absolutely nothing suss about that. No chance of corruption there. Completely normal stuff. No one should wonder who is bankrolling Christian Porter. https://t.co/slNM8H4DB7
— Andrew P Street (@AndrewPStreet) September 14, 2021
Porter updated his register of interests on Monday, revealing that the Legal Services Trust had paid part of the fees for the defamation case. In the declaration, Porter claimed that since he’s a potential beneficiary, he has “no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust”. It hasn’t been made clear how much of his legal fees will be paid by the trust, either.
The situation is icky not just because of the allegations against Porter (which he categorically denies), but because it’s always going to raise some eyebrows when a politician gets mystery money from a donor whose intentions aren’t known.
Christian Porter’s claim to have no idea who funded his million dollar legal case is an outrageous abuse of his office.
The Australian people need to know who set this trust up, who funded it, how much they donated, and whether they expected get anything in return. pic.twitter.com/x4ekbG4wur
— Mark Dreyfus (@markdreyfusQCMP) September 14, 2021
Labor’s Attorney-General spokesman Mark Dreyfus aired concerns about where the money could be coming from.
“If Mr Porter genuinely doesn’t know who his donors are, he shouldn’t accept their money. Did the money come from criminals? A foreign power?” he said.
“Other questions Mr Porter must answer include: Were any of these donors from overseas? Were any of these donors lobbyists?
“Were any of these donors beneficiaries of decisions made by Mr Porter – or do they stand to benefit from decisions Mr Porter may make in the future?
“The Australian people deserve immediate answers to these questions.”
In response to the comments, a spokesperson for Porter said no taxpayer money had been used to fund the case. Which we already know?
“The minister has undertaken disclosure in accordance with the requirements of the Register and consistent with previous members’ disclosure of circumstances where the costs of personal legal matters have been mitigated by contributions or reductions in fees,” he said.
“No taxpayers’ funds were used in meeting the costs of the Minister’s actions against the ABC and Milligan, which have now concluded.”
It’s important to note that there’s no requirement to register a trust in Australia, so Porter isn’t doing anything illegal by not disclosing where the money is coming from. Though I don’t know how comforting that is.