Politics Opinion

Christian Porter: Plausibility versus deniability

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Former Attorney-General Christian Porter intends to run as Liberal candidate for Pearce at the next election (Screenshot via YouTube)

As the events surrounding allegations against Christian Porter continue, it's unclear what this means for his future in politics, writes Andrew P Street.

* CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse

AS THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT is consumed with cascading controversies, from the ongoing stumbles of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to the disastrous decision to reduce overseas arrivals to the barefaced rorting of infrastructure funding for commuter car parks ahead of the election to the new revelations of the Prime Minister bullying a female MP out of his government, it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's happening with previous scandals.

And that's especially true when the details are stomach-churning, which is why the media seems to have skated over one of the viler details regarding the alleged historical rape of “Kate” by Australia's former Attorney General, Christian Porter.

Porter strenuously denies all of the allegations and continues to insist that absolutely nothing happened between him and his debating team partner during a Sydney debating competition in 1988, refuting her later claims that after going out drinking with Porter she was forced to perform oral sex on the now-Minister for Science and Innovation before he anally raped her.

“Kate” took her own life last year after informing the police that she wouldn't be pursuing her case any further and it's likely that this entire matter would have disappeared into rumour had Porter not pursued the ABC over an article by Louise Milligan which he claimed to have defamed him, despite Porter not being identified in the article.

And even that legal case might have successfully spooked the rest of the media into giving the entire story a wide berth, had Porter not doubled down by challenging the Federal Court not to remove his barrister Sue Chrysanthou after it was revealed that she'd given legal advice to “Kate's” friend Jo Dyer on relevant matters before taking on Porter's case.

Porter lost that case and while the ABC's defence is still suppressed, the failed battle to keep Chrysanthou meant that relevant documents were published on the Federal Court's webpage.

This is how the horrific details of “Kate's” allegations became public, thanks to the publication of the notorious dossier which had originally only been circulated to a handful of politicians, including PM Scott Morrison. Ironically, it was Milligan's article revealing the existence of the dossier without revealing any details about what it contained that spurred Porter’s suit in the first place.

Among the documents were heavily redacted affidavits from “Kate's” teenage boyfriend James Hooke, now managing director of Macquarie Bank, who had given two statements to police in March this year regarding relevant discussions he'd had with Porter over the years. And then The Guardian revealed what those discussions supposedly were: Porter boasting to Hooke that he'd had sex with his girlfriend.

And that's a problem for a number of reasons, not least that Porter's tearful press conference in March included a strenuous denial that he and “Kate” had had any kind of romantic or sexual relationship and that he barely knew her at the time and hadn't seen her since, “to the best of my recollection” — a point that “Kate” refutes in her statement, which includes claims that she'd visited Porter at least twice in the years after the debating competition.

All of this is obviously the word of a group of motivated people against the word of an equally motivated Porter and the NSW Police's continued refusal to reopen the case means that for now at least, the only legal battles over the allegations will be the ones Porter is choosing to continue to fight (at least, unless the proposed private prosecution gets up). But so far, they've seemed to have done him more harm than good.

Porter has insisted that he'll run as the Liberal candidate for Pearce at the next election. Problematically for his political future, it could be argued that the allegations all add up to a consistent image of an entitled, privileged man who has never seen fit to take “no” for an answer when it comes to getting something he wants.

How that goes down with his constituents remains to be seen.

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.

Andrew P Street is an Adelaide-based, Sydney-built journalist, author, editor and broadcaster and an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewPStreet.

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