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Looking for a loophole

By 2353NM

It’s a pity Barnaby Joyce’s stirring defence of Christian Porter on his demotion to the back bench wasn’t an out of season April Fool’s joke. Recently The Guardian reported

On Monday, Joyce told reporters in Canberra Porter was “incredibly intelligent” and had been an “incredibly capable” minister, suggesting he could return after seeking re-election in his Western Australian seat of Pearce.

There is no denying that Porter earned the academic achievements he can claim, and he is probably quite a good lawyer. With some caveats, you could also agree with Joyce’s comment that Porter was ‘incredibly capable’. He did convince an unnamed trustee to co-ordinate the donation of a million dollars to the cause of assisting to pay his legal expenses in the defamation case he brought against the ABC – which was settled out of court when he withdrew the claim. Furthermore, Porter had the capacity to discuss with the media how this unnamed trustee and the people that contributed to this cause did it for purely altruistic reasons. Apparently they don’t expect anything in return for their generous donation because even if they did, Porter claims he doesn’t know who they are so he can’t assist them in the future.

But ‘incredibly intelligent’? Give us a break. Let’s assume for a moment that the motives here are perfectly ethical and the group of, let’s call them benefactors, really don’t want their money back at some point. Is he seriously suggesting there is no potential for influence over Porter’s potential future ministerial (or higher) decisions or any other benefit from their largesse? If that is the assertion, it’s pretty obvious those of us that don’t have unnamed benefactors that are prepared to give us a million dollars apparently don’t understand the world where the former Federal Attorney-General and Innovation Minister seems to believe this is common practice.

Prime Minister Morrison’s justifications for accepting Porter’s ‘resignation from the ministry’ were reported in The New Daily

He said the ministerial code of conduct compelled ministers to “conclusively rule out a perceived conflict”, which Mr Porter was unable to do.

“It is a blind trust. He cannot disclose to me who those donors are,” Mr Morrison said.

“Our discussions today were about upholding the standards. We believe they are incredibly important, and it is not just about actual conflicts, it’s about the standards for ministers to have an obligation to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest that is ultimately what has led the minister to make that decision this afternoon.”

Porter might have been deeply upset and humiliated by the ABC reporting, causing him to resort to legal redress. The distress may have blinded his claimed ‘capable’ judgement. Morrison’s public comments regarding the upholding of ministerial standards are appropriate assuming Porter is not elevated back into the ministry when the storm blows over. But sadly, Joyce is probably closer to predicting what will happen. He knows from personal experience that the issue will not be front and centre forever and there is plenty of opportunity for the resurrection of the career of Christian Porter at some point in the foreseeable future.

Joyce was the subject of public shaming while a Minister for having an affair with one of his staff (and not knowing about his ancestry) and eventually bounced back. Joyce is unfortunately probably correct in suggesting that sooner rather than later Porter will resume his ‘rising star’ career.

The New Daily reported

“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,” Labor’s shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said.

“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 … What the register of interests requires is that you disclose the amount of the gift and who it’s from.”

He said Labor would “raise this in every possible way” through the parliament, including a referral to the House of Representatives’ standing committee on privileges, or potentially a censure motion.

The New Daily also reported the thoughts of The Greens’ leadership

Greens leader Adam Bandt has said his party will consider moving a no-confidence motion in Mr Porter when parliament resumes in mid-October.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young tweeted “it doesn’t matter whether it’s the front, back or [cross] bench, MPs all have a responsibility to uphold the intent of parliament’s transparency and accountability measures.”

“Mr Porter took the money, he must report, repay or resign.”

Which is all well and good, but it appears the only ‘punishment’ that can be handed out is a light slap over the wrist by the Parliamentary Ethics Committee. The voters in Porter’s electorate could choose another candidate – which would probably only happen if the Western Australia Liberal Party doesn’t endorse Porter as their representative.

The lack of accountability is endemic – the South Australian Liberal Government passed laws to emasculate the state’s ICAC in the same week as Joyce was telling the world that Porter would do his time in the ‘sin bin’ and return to the front bench. The laws were passed with indecent haste

The bill passed the Lower House on Thursday evening, within 24 hours of the first debate in the Upper House, with no MP from any party voting against the changes.

It then went back to the Upper House, where it was unanimously supported again.
[our emphasis]

The real issue here is the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. While Joyce is probably correct that there is no illegal activity here, the morals and ethics stink to high heaven. If others in the Parliaments around the country see the standards that are acceptable according to the leadership, those will be the standards they aim for.

Parliamentarians should be looking for accountability rather than loopholes. There is a higher standard required than ‘did it break the law’ to retain the accountability of public office – regardless of whether the office is Attorney-General in the Australian Parliament or the Treasurer of the local Rotary Club. Those in a position of trust have to be able to demonstrate that any decisions affecting others were made independently, without consideration for those who may peddle influence to gain an outcome beneficial to their interests.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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22 comments

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  1. Harry Lime

    Firstly, the newly re minted back bencher has to retain his seat in WA…if he actually is ‘highly intelligent’ enough to think he might actually win.I’m thinking his “better self” might dissuade him from chancing another ignominious ‘win’.The endorsement of that fucking idiot Joyce shouldn’t fill him with confidence,and there are a lot of chickens yet to come home to roost.

  2. Mr Shevill Mathers

    Let’s hope that what is now happening in NSW (the Gold Standard) is the tip of an iceberg becoming more visible. Two skittles down in less than a week, it’s a good start, and may yet see more exit sphincters fluttering!!

  3. Ross

    If you’re looking for transparency and accountability from this federal coalition government you will be sorely disappointed. We have had eight years of these sorts of shenanigans from the LNP and all that happens when the culprit is caught out is ten minutes in the sin bin.
    Not good enough by a country mile.
    Labor might consider running with a cast iron guarantee that a NSW style ICAC with large fangs will be legislated in the first week of the new parliament. Sure Labor might lose a couple in the process but the fallout in coalition ranks will be stupendous.
    Government toadies in the mainstream media won’t report it so labor should resort to a direct mail out of a feral, sorry federal ICAC law proposal. Now that would produce primordial panic in the LNP and swing the federal election in labor’s favour, WA state election style.

  4. King1394

    Sad that no one seems to know the meaning of the word “incredible” any more. Perhaps we can look forward to incredible promises and incredible sets of figures very soon

  5. Don Morris

    This is about a weird blend of malignant narcissiscic and sociopathic predelections. It is indicative of a serious political sickness.

  6. Phil Pryor

    So, Barnaby Drunken-Dicksticker has endorsed a Mr. Christian (hah) Arzfarka to be an honest and typical Australian rep in Parliament. So, pigs fly, muslims eat bacon with relish, you can get a good wife in Palmer Lane, a Melbourne cup cert at the knackers for petfood, a decent long lived car from old John L, or a sure bet from Lenny Mc Pherson, or a guaranteed deal from Eddie Obeid or a solid investment property from Bond or Skase, or a deal to redevelop, with a bag of cash, from Rob Askin, or a root, rort, bet, drink, deal or applied assault from good old Bumper, or land near a rigged ripoff, per any liberal premier, and, you have it made, sweet, in NSW. Far Canal (Venice)

  7. HENRY RODRIGUES

    Imagine receiving the dubious backing of a drunken New England procreator of illegimate offspring. Its enough to force one to renounce all pretentions of political redemption and enter a monastery just to disassociate oneself from the ridicule and the contemptous laughter that will echo in the chambers for a very long time. An laughable situation of a disreputable drunk endorsing a guilt ridden weak kneed born to rule wannabee.

  8. Roswell

    2353, I keep getting drawn to a cartoon I saw decades ago:

    A lawyer was talking to his client in prison and announcing the good news he’d found a loophole to get him released.

    Through the window to the yard in the background you could see the scaffold being erected.

    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

  9. BB

    In the case of Mister Porker, (and associates), ‘loopyhole’ and ‘incredibly ignorant’ would be far more apt.

    The Liberals simply don’t give a rat’s arse for anything resembling integrity of ethical conduct.

    Australia needs a Federal ICAC Now.
    https://www.federalicacnow.org/

  10. New England Cocky

    Australian voters outside New England may be surprised to learn that Beetrooter actively practices Nazional$ ”Family Values” having the abandoned marriage, alcoholism, the adulterous relationship spawning two bastards to prove it. Yet the local women have been so well trained to submit to such ”boys will be boys” behaviour and the men so envious of his amorous ”achievements” that they voted him back into Parliament as the representatives of the Nazional$ in New England.

    This attitude may be difficult to understand in civilised communities but demonstrates how maintaining social isolation perpetuates 18th century community values of misogyny, self-serving opportunism and hypocrisy. Holding power is far more important that ethical principles because it guarantees direct access to government largess that may be utilised to further personal pecuniary interests.

  11. Terence Mills

    Again Barnaby Joyce has tried to muddy the waters by some more misinformation by likening the ICAC enquiries to a Spanish Inquisition.

    For a start the Spanish Inquisition was run by the Catholic Church and was aimed at non-Catholics and in particular the persecution of Jews and Muslims : it acted as judge, jury and executioner.

    The ICAC in NSW acts purely to investigate and gather information on allegations of wrongdoing and malfeasance in government : they have no powers to prosecute and any evidence that they gather has to be presented to the responsible authorities which in NSW would be the offices of The Director of Public Prosecutions who then decide if prosecution will proceed.

    There is no comparison between the Spanish Inquisition and the ICAC in New South Wales and Joyce needs to be pulled into line for spreading misinformation.

  12. HENRY RODRIGUES

    When is ICAC going to investigate the wanton irresponsible spraying all around of sperm by the drunken lout from New England, resulting in the corruption of impressionable women and the extra expense to the state for the costs of supporting his illegitimate offspring ?

  13. BB

  14. BB

    Here we go around another loophole, or two or three….. all I can think of is the phrase “pants on fire…”
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-05/hillsong-founder-brian-houston-pleads-not-guilty/100514102

    Morrison himself credited Houston as being a key spiritual mentor. (FFS!) Does Morrison not understand what secular means?

    How Scott Morrison responds to allegations against Brian Houston could be Australia’s clincher

    No wonder Australia has such little credibility in world politics, our PM believes in glossolalia, otherwise known as gibberish!

  15. Brad Black

    Perhaps the government’s apparent philanderer in chief, the boozy beetroot, sees ‘christian’ as a bit of soul mate?

  16. Max Gross

    The rot goes deep in Australia. It wasn’t always this bad. But under Morrison it has never been worse.

  17. Michael Taylor

    Hi, GL.

    I saw something on Twitter this morning that appealed to me.

    If Scott Morrison is ScoMo, then Dominic Perrottet is DoPe.

  18. BB

    Good one Michael.. and also…
    Dominic Perrottet

    Medical definition of doper….
    A person who frequently or habitually uses illicit drugs

  19. johnyperth

    The WA Liberals have a massive problem!!!
    The Wa Liberals should ask Porter to resign!!
    Then we have Ian Goodenough that has been involved with branch stacking!!
    So what did the WA Liberals do?
    The WA Liberals just endorsed Goodenough again!!
    Where is the transparent of the WA Liberals!!??
    This is how bad the WA’s Liberals are!!!

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