|Minister for Industry, |
Science and Technology
30 March 2021 – 19 September 2021
|Prime Minister||Scott Morrison|
|Preceded by||Karen Andrews|
|Succeeded by||Melissa Price (as Minister for Science and Technology)|
|Attorney-General of Australia|
20 December 2017 – 30 March 2021
|Prime Minister||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Preceded by||George Brandis|
|Succeeded by||Michaelia Cash|
|Leader of the House|
26 May 2019 – 30 March 2021
|Prime Minister||Scott Morrison|
|Preceded by||Christopher Pyne|
|Succeeded by||Peter Dutton|
|Minister for Industrial Relations|
26 May 2019 – 30 March 2021
|Prime Minister||Scott Morrison|
|Preceded by||Kelly O'Dwyer|
|Succeeded by||Michaelia Cash|
|Minister for Social Services|
21 September 2015 – 20 December 2017
|Prime Minister||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Preceded by||Scott Morrison|
|Succeeded by||Dan Tehan|
|Member of the Australian Parliament|
|Assumed office |
7 September 2013
|Preceded by||Judi Moylan|
Charles Christian Porter
11 July 1970
Perth, Western Australia,
|Political party||Liberal Party|
(m. 2008; separated 2020)
|Relatives||Charles Robert Porter (grandfather)|
|Alma mater||Hale School|
University of Western Australia (BEc, BA (Hons), LLB)
London School of Economics (MSc)
Charles Christian Porter (born 11 July 1970) is an Australian Liberal Party politician and lawyer who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Pearce since 2013. He previously served as Leader of the House, Minister for Industrial Relations from 2019 to 2021, as Attorney-General of Australia from 2017 to 2021, and as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in 2021.
From Perth, Porter attended Hale School, the University of Western Australia and later the London School of Economics, and practised law at Clayton Utz and taught law at the University of Western Australia before his election to parliament. He is the son of the 1956 Olympic silver medallist, Charles "Chilla" Porter, and the grandson of Queensland Liberal politician, Charles Porter, who was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1966 to 1980.
Before his election to the federal House of Representatives, Porter had served in the Parliament of Western Australia. He first entered the Legislative Assembly after winning the seat of Murdoch in a 2008 by-election following the death of the sitting member, Trevor Sprigg, and he was subsequently elected to the new seat of Bateman at the 2008 general election. After the Liberals formed government, Porter was appointed Attorney-General in the Barnett Ministry. In December 2010, he was also appointed Treasurer, and held both portfolios until June 2012, when he resigned from the ministry to contest the 2013 federal election.
Before assuming his current position, Porter was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in the Abbott Government from December 2014 to September 2015, and then Minister for Social Services in the Turnbull Government from September 2015 to December 2017. In March 2021 a historical rape allegation against Porter became public. Porter denied the claim and launched a defamation case against the ABC. The case was later dropped, with the ABC agreeing to pay all of Porter's mediation costs and appending an editor's note to the original article.
Background and early career
Porter's father was Charles "Chilla" Porter, who won the men's high jump silver medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics and was director of Western Australia's Liberal Party during the 1970s and 1980s. Chilla's father, Charles Robert Porter, was a Queensland Liberal state MP between 1966 and 1980 and served in the ministry of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Porter was educated at Hale School, and was selected for Australia's national schools debating team. From 1988 he attended the University of Western Australia where he graduated Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours in politics, before completing a Bachelor of Laws degree. Porter later studied at the London School of Economics for a Master of Science in political theory, from which he graduated with distinction at the top of his class.
Prior to entering Parliament, Porter worked predominantly as a lawyer, starting as a commercial litigator at Clayton Utz before moving to public practice. He spent a year as an advisor to the Federal Minister for Justice and then began working for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as a senior state prosecutor. Before his election in 2008, Porter was working as a lecturer at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia as well as retaining, part-time, his position as senior prosecutor at the DPP.
At the 2008 election, Porter contested and won the newly created seat of Bateman following the abolition of the seat of Murdoch in the 2007 redistribution. He was appointed Attorney-General and Minister for Corrective Services after the election, having held the equivalent shadow portfolios prior to the election.
On 14 December 2010, Porter was sworn in as Treasurer of Western Australia. He retained the portfolio of Attorney-General, while the Corrective Services portfolio was transferred to Terry Redman.
At the 2013 election, Porter was elected to federal parliament with an 8% margin. He became parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister on 23 December 2014 and held that position until 21 September 2015. He was a part of the speaker's panel from 18 November 2013 to 9 February 2015.
Minister for Social Services (2015–2017)
In 2016, Centrelink, operating under Porter's senior oversight as Social Services Minister, became involved in a debt recovery controversy. Despite heightened media interest and complaints, after meeting with the Department of Human Services, Porter stated that the program was working "incredibly well". The program was later subject to a Senate committee inquiry, and the program was estimated to be responsible for over 2000 deaths.
In May 2020, Porter (now in the position of Attorney-General rather than Social Services Minister) conceded that the Robodebt scheme had "no legal basis" and was "unlawful" but refused to apologise for it.
One of Porter's roles was to manage the Cashless Welfare Card, and increased its use in various communities. He spoke of his pride in the outcomes of the policy. However, the card has been linked to increased hardship for many of its users and its efficacy has been heavily disputed.
During his time in this ministry, Porter was instrumental in the formation of the Coalition policy of performing drug tests on welfare recipients, which was criticised by experts, since there was no evidence anywhere in the world of a similar project working. ABC fact checkers called the policy "wishful thinking" that it would help people get off welfare. This section of the legislation was eventually dropped to allow the passage of the remaining elements of the bill, which contained large budget cuts to the welfare system.
Porter was criticised for skipping the final sittings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in order to attend a cricket match with John Howard.
After the reshuffle, some of the national security powers and responsibilities previously held by the Attorney-General were transferred to the new position of Minister for Home Affairs, which was given to Peter Dutton. This was seen as a positive by some,[who?] who said that the role of Attorney-General had become too focused on security and that the role should be realigned to its old purpose of defending the rule of law. It was also suggested that many areas of the law were in crisis because of the security focus, such as family law and incarceration levels of Indigenous Australians.
At the commencement of his role as Attorney-General, Porter called on religious institutions to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Following the raids on the journalists of the ABC and Newscorp, Porter would not rule out prosecuting journalists for publishing public interest stories, although he said he would be "seriously disinclined" to go ahead with a prosecution. In the case of Newscorp journalist Annika Smethurst, Porter asked the court not to destroy the evidence collected from the raid on her house, so that it could be used in a future court case. Porter and the Federal Police said the restrictive privacy when it comes to security matters, "may justify very large incursions on the freedom" of individuals.
In November 2019, Porter as Attorney-General extended the religious freedom bill from faith-based schools and organisations to religious hospitals and aged-care providers. The bill states that the aforementioned institutions would have legal protection to employ staff according to their religious beliefs.
Other actions he has taken in his role have included calling on social media platforms to be seen as publishers, attempts to block environmental groups from calling on boycotts of companies connected to the coal industry, repealing the medevac laws, restricting union activity, and attempting to have GetUp! registered as an arm of the Labor party.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Porter worked with Sally McManus of the ACTU to develop amendments to the Fair Work Act. Mr Porter hailed the negotiations as a success, with McManus stating that; "We had been concerned that several employer groups had been advocating for a widespread removal of workers' rights akin to WorkChoices".
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology (March – September 2021)
In March 2021, following the allegations against Porter, the cabinet was shuffled and he was moved to the position of Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Scott Morrison said this was a compromise due to advice from the solicitor-general regarding whether Porter could remain Attorney General while taking legal action against the ABC. Porter resigned from cabinet on 19 September 2021 after concerns that he had accepted anonymous donations via a blind trust to cover his legal expenses.
He has described himself as "not particularly religious".
In the mid 2000s, Porter married Lucy Gunn, but they divorced. In 2008, Porter married Jennifer Negus, a former colleague and a granddaughter of former independent senator Syd Negus. He took paternity leave after his wife gave birth to their first child the day after being sworn in as the social services minister. They later had a second child, but announced their separation in January 2020.
In November 2020, it was alleged on Four Corners that, although married, Porter had kissed and cuddled a colleague's political staffer in a public setting. Porter denied the allegation and said that the staffer in question had also denied to Four Corners that the event occurred, but that the denial was not mentioned in the report. He again denied the allegation on the Perth radio station 6PR.
In the program, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated that Porter's alleged behaviour had caused concern in the party room, although that was disputed by Porter. Not long after he said he had raised the alleged incident with Porter, Turnbull promoted Porter to the position of Attorney-General. Porter attributed the criticisms made by Turnbull to a falling-out between the two men during the 2018 Liberal Party of Australia leadership spills, the event which ended Turnbull's prime ministership.
In late February 2021, Australian media reported an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in 1988. It alleged that the male offender was now (in 2021) a federal cabinet minister. She had written a long statement for her solicitor in 2019, and had contacted several politicians and police. She died by suicide in 2020 and her statement was sent anonymously in February 2021 to the prime minister and several other members of parliament. On 2 March 2021 the police announced there was "insufficient admissible evidence" to secure a prosecution. Porter announced on 3 March 2021 that he was the person named in the allegations. He confirmed he met the woman in Sydney when he was 17, but denied the accusation and any sexual contact with her. He also announced he would take immediate leave to look after his mental health following the accusations.
On 15 March 2021, Porter launched a defamation claim against the ABC and reporter Louise Milligan, for publishing the allegation. His claim argued that although the original allegation did not name him, he was "readily identifiable" and that the article was intended to harm him. Porter withdrew the defamation claim on 31 May 2021, with the ABC paying the costs of mediation and appending an editor's note to the original article stating that "The ABC did not contend that the serious accusations could be substantiated to the applicable legal standard". No findings were made and no damages were awarded to Porter. On 24 June 2021, the original dossier detailing the rape allegation against Porter was made publicly available by the Federal Court of Australia.
In September 2021, Porter revealed to Federal Parliament in an interest declaration that the defamation case was funded in part by an anonymous donor, though he did not indicate the value of the donation nor his overall legal fees. A donation was made through a blind trust called the Legal Services Trust and Porter claimed "as a potential beneficiary I have no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust". Porter's receipt of this donation was criticised by the opposition saying that he should not have accepted an anonymous donation and that it's in the public interest to know who made this donation. Porter also received criticism from Malcolm Turnbull, who described the situation as if Porter had said "my legal fees were paid by a guy in a mask who dropped off a chaff bag full of cash". The declaration also stated that his barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, discounted her typical fees to represent him in the case. Porter tendered his resignation from the frontbench on 19 September 2021.
On Wednesday 20 October 2021, the Coalition government blocked a bid from the Australian Labor Party opposition to have Porter investigated by House privileges committee over whether he had breached parliamentary rules over his financial disclosures, despite Speaker Tony Smith having ruled that there was a prima facie case for further scrutiny. The move from the government attracted significant criticism in the media.
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