Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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(03) 9580 4651

Melbourne Doorstop 20 September 2021

20 September 2021

SUBJECT: Christian Porter’s failure to comply with Parliamentary Standards.




SUBJECT: Christian Porter’s failure to comply with Parliamentary Standards.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is not over. Mr Morrison might think that because Christian Porter has resigned from the Ministry, that's the end of the matter but it is not the end of the matter. It is no more acceptable for a Member of Parliament to keep a donation secret then it is for a Minister to keep a donation secret. 

Laughably, Mr Morrison was claiming yesterday that in some way, the resignation of Mr Porter from the Ministry was an upholding of the Ministerial Standards. It is nothing of the kind. It is a breach of the Ministerial Standards. Mr Porter breached the Ministerial Standards by receiving a secret gift and he is in breach of the standards that apply to Members of the Australian Parliament. 

This is a Government without standards. Mr Morrison is not only a Prime Minister who won't take responsibility for anything, he's also a Prime Minister who won't apply any standards. And disgracefully, just this morning, Mr Joyce, who is now the Acting Prime Minister of our country, is saying that Mr Porter can return to the Ministry at some future time. Just think about that for a moment. We've got a man who resigned in disgrace from the Ministry, that's Mr Joyce some years ago, who has now returned to the Cabinet of the Australian Government and is now our Acting Prime Minister. We've got his colleague, Senator McKenzie, who also resigned in disgrace, she's returned to the Cabinet. And now we have this same man, Mr Joyce, who resigned in disgrace, but has returned, saying that Mr Porter, who has also resigned in disgrace, might return to the Cabinet one day. If ever you wanted a better demonstration of a Government with no standards, it's that statement this morning by the Acting Prime Minister.

Mr Morrison has, of course, run away from this thinking that he ended it yesterday by having a resignation from Mr Porter. Well, I want to be very clear, this is not over. Labor will make sure that this is not over. We will raise this in every possible way because if this stands then transparency and accountability are at an end in Australia. If this stands it's clear that you can buy a politician, you can buy a Member of Parliament in this country, that politicians are for sale in some way. 

I'll finish with this, if we had a proper, strong, National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is what Labor will establish in government, you can be absolutely certain that this kind of behaviour from Mr Porter would not be possible. You can be absolutely certain because a National Anti-Corruption Commission would not let it occur. A National, a powerful National Anti-Corruption Commission would make sure that Members of Parliament could not receive secret donations. It would make sure that that was understood by everybody - and this would apply to both sides of politics - it would be understood by everybody that you can't just make up the rules to suit yourself. You can't say, 'I'm going to receive potentially up to a million dollars' to pay what I think Mr. Porter described as his very expensive lawyers. You can't receive donations in secret. It's not on, you need to tell, and Mr. Porter still has the same choice that he had yesterday -he can either tell the Australian public what they are entitled to know, which is how much were these donations and who were they from, or he can resign and nothing else is an option for him. Mr Morrison still doesn't seem to understand that. He should. 

JOURNALIST: What options is Labor considering?

DREYFUS: We intend to raise this in the Parliament in every possible way. It's clearly a matter that the Privileges Committee could look at. It's clearly a matter that the Parliament as a whole could be looking at in the form of a censure motion. We'll see where this gets to but the Parliament doesn't sit for another month. We're not back until the 18th of September, sorry, 18th of October, four weeks today, and we'll see where this gets to in that time. But what's clear at the moment is that Mr Morrison's done some kind of deal with Mr Porter. He said to him, 'you can keep the money. You don't have to tell where the money came from as long as there's not a by-election in Western Australia.'

JOURNALIST: You and Anthony Albanese say Christian Porter breached the rules as a Member of Parliament. Can you outline which rules he's breached?

DREYFUS: We've got very clear rules. It is a Register of Members’ interests in which Members of Parliament, not just Ministers but all Members of Parliament are required to comply with this. It's a Register that is public and in that Register Members of Parliament put down their shareholdings. They put down their real estate interests. They put down the shareholdings and real estate interests and directorships, not only of themselves, but of their partners. And they disclose gifts that they have received. And disclosing a gift does not mean, as Mr Porter and Mr Morrison seem to think, saying 'I've received a secret gift, but I'm not going to tell you anything about it.' What a nonsense. What the Register of Interests requires is that you disclose the amount of the gift and who it's from. And I don't know why it's not clear to them, because it sure is clear to just about every other Australian that's looking on in horror at what these men are doing to wreck our democracy.

JOURNALIST: Mr Porter says he's sought assurances that the blind trust’s donors are not lobbyists or foreign entities. Is that enough?

DREYFUS: No, it's not even close to enough. It's not just a matter of did he receive a donation from a foreign country or did he receive a donation from a lobbyist. The Australian people are entitled to know who the secret donation is from, full stop. It's not for Mr Porter to judge. This is the bloke saying, 'Oh, it's a blind trust so trust me blindly." I don't think it cuts like that. I think what the Register of Interests is for - this is a resolution of the House of Representatives that was passed in 1984, there were other arrangements before then - but since at least 1984 it's been absolutely clear that if you have received a gift as a Member of Parliament you have to disclose it. And you have to disclose how much if it's a gift of a thing, you have to disclose how much it's worth. And you have to say who you got this gift from. And I don't know what's not clear to Mr Porter. I don't know what's not clear to Mr Morrison, because it's clear to just about everybody else.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it passes the pub test? I mean, is this just something that the community can stand by and watch happen?

DREYFUS: As Anthony Albanese said yesterday, it doesn't pass the laugh test. Unfortunately, pubs aren't open here in Victoria at the moment so perhaps we shouldn't be talking about the pub test. I don't think it passes any test. It doesn't pass the test that was set for Members of Parliament when they got elected, which is one of the conditions on which you are elected, is that you will disclose quite a lot about your personal affairs. It's one of the prices that Members of Parliament pay. It's the price that I've certainly willingly paid, and I would expect every single Member of Parliament to willingly pay it because it's an immense privilege to serve the people of Australia as a Member of Parliament. And why Mr Porter and Mr Morrison think that they can make up new rules on the run just because it suits Mr Morrison not to have a by-election in Western Australia, and just because it suits Mr Porter to take the hundreds of thousands of dollars that he's got in secret donations and not disclose who it's from, just because it suits the interests of Mr Morrison and Mr Porter, is not a good enough reason for ripping up the rules that apply to every single Member of the Australian Parliament. They are rules that are there for good reason. They keep our democracy clean. They keep us safe from rich people being able to go and buy Members of Parliament because that's why we have disclosure.

JOURNALIST: Would Mr Porter resigning kind of resolve this issue, or does it go to a cultural problem within the Coalition?

DREYFUS: Well, this is a Government without standards. That Mr Porter thought he could get away with this stunt by putting something into the Register of Interests that said, 'I've received a secret donation, but I'm not going to tell you anything about it because it's secret'. He thought he could get away with that stunt because that's the standard that the current Prime Minister of Australia thinks is an appropriate standard. It's shameful and it needs to be brought to an end straight away. We've got halfway by Mr Porter resigning from the Ministry because of his breach of Ministerial Standards. Now we need to get the rest of the distance, which is that he's got to disclose to the Parliament who this donation was from and how much it was. What's the amount of money and who's it from -  he doesn't have a choice. Sorry, he does have one choice, he can give the money back and that'll be the end of the matter. But he apparently doesn't want to do that and he's still trying to persist with this nonsense. And Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce, the Acting Prime Minister, helping him with the nonsense by pretending that somehow he doesn't have to disclose the amount of the donation and who it's from.