Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has said he believes Christian Porter should be given “another chance” at some future time in a senior role, following his resignation from the front bench.
On Tuesday, Joyce claimed Porter had experienced “a bad day at the wicket” and the transparency issue of his use of anonymous funds “had been dealt with”.
Porter resigned from the federal cabinet and his role as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology on Sunday, after it was revealed he had used a “blind trust” funded by an anonymous donor, or donors, to pay part of his legal fees for a defamation suit against the ABC. The now settled case related to an article that revealed an unnamed cabinet minister was facing historical rape allegations. Porter identified himself as the accused minster and has denied the allegations.
“Mr Porter is an incredibly intelligent person. He’s been an incredibly capable minister, both in the Western Australia state parliament and in federal parliament,” Joyce said on Tuesday.
“He’s had a bad day at the wicket. There’s no doubt about that and that issue has been dealt with. He has stepped down from the cabinet. Now, his contract is with the people of Pearce and he’ll be back there honouring that contract.”
Joyce indicated that if Porter used his time on the backbench “effectively”, it could be expected that he would return to cabinet at some point.
“You’ll go over to the corridor of the nearly dead over there, stare at the Comcars coming in and out. You’ll have a bit of time on your hands, but you can use it effectively – and I’m sure he will,” Joyce said.
“If he does it effectively, I believe he should be given another chance, at some future time, in a senior role.”
Barnaby Joyce has stepped into the role of Acting Prime Minister this week as Scott Morrison visits the United States.
Before he left the country, Morrison announced that Porter would be resigning from cabinet because he could not disclose the donors to the blind trust used to pay part of his legal fees. Despite not revealing the source of the funds, Porter maintains that he complied with ministerial standards and rules about an MP’s register of interest.
Labor is demanding that Porter either return the money, or disclose the source of the funds.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the “Australian people need to know who funded this trust, how much they gave, and what they expected to get in return”.
Dreyfus said Porter’s move to backbench does not resolve the issue for Porter and Morrison.
“It is no more acceptable for a member of parliament to keep a donation secret than it is for a minister to keep a donation secret. The Australian people are entitled to know.”
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