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Wren's Week: Gladys does the dash while Porter remains untouchable

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

The Liberal Party is displaying its usual incompetence and corruption, with Christian Porter stealing the limelight in this week's scandals, writes John Wren.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse

ANOTHER HUGE WEEK in Australian politics. COVID-19 is still raging in Sydney, hospitals are on the brink of collapse and Melbourne, thanks to seeding from Sydney, is following a similar trajectory.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is under immense pressure to accept responsibility for the unfolding disaster in Sydney while simultaneously having to face an ICAC enquiry into her dodgy dealings with former paramour Daryl Maguire. Journalists were using her daily COVID-19 press conference to question her on her corruption allegations. In a fit of pique, she announced she would no longer be holding daily press conferences. Just as the outbreak is approaching its crescendo, Berejiklian displayed her core cowardice and ran. To quote Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, she’s not a leader, she’s just a Liberal.

NSW Labor Opposition Leader Chris Minns, demonstrating his well-honed political instinct, announced he would hold a daily presser on Monday at the same time that Berejiklian would have normally done so. Berejiklian promptly reversed her decision and continued holding her daily pressers, stating that it was always planned that way. It was comedy gold and a win for Minns, who has successfully managed to keep the spotlight on Berejiklian’s myriad failings.

While this was going on, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was being hammered for his gross abuse of power and taxpayers’ money, which saw him finagle an exemption to fly to Sydney to see his family on Fathers’ Day in a taxpayer-funded RAAF jet. He needed a distraction urgently and in true Liberal Party fashion, a bigger scandal emerged that eclipsed the previous one. There are many examples of these phenomena with the Morrison Government — scandal, knocked off the front page by another bigger scandal and so on.

It gets to a point where these relentless rolling scandals become the norm and voters become inured to them. They become the expected norm. This is the tragedy of Australian politics.

That bigger scandal was the perennial dodgy pollie, Christian Porter.

Porter as we know has been permanently tarnished by a historical rape allegation from his teenage years. Morrison, displaying his usual lack of judgement and morality, welcomed him back into his Cabinet a few months back, but not into his old role as Attorney-General.

Morrison’s single-seat majority, coupled with his narcissistic need to cling to power, means he is held hostage to the nutters and the corrupt within his Coalition. This means rabid anti-vaxxer fruit loops like George Christensen are allowed to keep on keeping on. If Morrison was a genuine leader, he would have purged these idiots from his Party. It is the role of a leader to set and enforce behavioural standards. Porter, too, is obviously holding the one-seat majority over Morrison’s head like the sword of Damocles.

In a normal political environment, Porter would have resigned his seat many months ago and moved on to a new career elsewhere. Bizarrely, Porter has been keeping the rape allegations in the front of voters’ minds through costly well-publicised legal actions against his detractors. Most notably, the defamation proceedings against the ABC’s Louise Milligan.

Porter famously withdrew his case when he realised that if it went to court Milligan’s evidence would be made public. He then went to great lengths to ensure there was a court order in place to stop that evidence from ever being published. Hardly the actions of an innocent man.

However, all this high-profile legal action costs money and lots of it. And because the action is personal, it can’t be funded by taxpayers. Porter announced his fees would be paid by a blind trust.

A blind trust is a mechanism where beneficiaries – in this case, Porter – can receive funds without supposedly knowing the source of those funds. Porter obviously saw the use of a blind trust as a loophole in ministerial standards. Someone puts money into the trust, which then gives it to Porter. It’s the equivalent of finding a brown paper bag full of cash on your doorstep.

The money could theoretically come from anywhere — a drug cartel, the Chinese Communist Party, a big win on the nags. Or, as is most likely, one or more of the usual cohort of WA mining and press barons that finance the Liberal Party — Gina Rinehart, Kerry Stokes or Andrew Forrest.

Morrison, stunned and chastised by the challenge to his ministerial standards, ordered an immediate investigation. This is a delaying tactic. In fact, if Morrison can’t see the problem with the use of a blind trust by his MPs, then he is also unfit for public office. This is typical of Morrison — unable to sack Porter because of his single-seat majority, he orders an investigation which will take many weeks, by which time the media will have moved on and it will be buried and forgotten.

The investigation really just demonstrates Morrison’s inability to set and enforce standards. His party is laughing at him.

But what does it say about the donors to Porter’s blind trust? Porter is toxic; he is now widely known as an alleged rapist. The vast majority of Australians believe the accusations of Porter’s alleged late victim over his teary rebuttal. These donors want Porter in their corner, but don’t want to be publicly associated with him. They would rather pervert democracy by giving cash to an alleged rapist with blind trust donations than being seen in public with him. It is flagrant corruption and they are well aware of it.

And if you really believe Porter doesn’t know where the money has come from, I’ve got a big bridge over the Melbourne docklands to sell you. Look me up. It’s going cheap.

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

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