Finance Minister hammered over Christian Porter donation in live TV trainwreck

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has been slammed on live TV for sidestepping questions about whether Christian Porter should remain on the frontbench despite accepting an anonymous donation to pay his legal fees.

The federal government has come under increasing pressure this week to dump the Industry Minister after it was revealed a blind trust paid the cost of his legal fees in a now discontinued defamation case against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan.

Asked on Sunday if a Cabinet Minister should accept an anonymous donation, Mr Birmingham conceded the matter raised “serious questions” but he declined to provide a personal view.

“I'm not going to give a personal opinion. The Prime Minister has done the right thing by acknowledging that this instance raises some serious questions,” he told ABC’s Insiders.

“That’s why he has asked for precise and proper advice from his department, and I look forward to that being received, and the Prime Minister will, no doubt, then act on that advice accordingly.”

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on Insiders on Sunday
Camera IconInsiders host David Speers grilled the Finance Minister over controversy surrounding Christian Porter. Credit: ABC

But host David Speers would not accept the Minister’s response and pressed on: “You're a Minister. Surely you can have a personal view. Would you accept a personal donation?”

“I am a Minister and can have personal views but it is not my job to express personal views … we should all act in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the ministerial code of conduct,” Mr Birmingham replied.

Mr Speers continued on his crusade to have the Minister respond to the question, but Mr Birmingham did not play ball and held the party line.

“Surely you can see most Australians would agree that the idea of a politician receiving anonymously a donation to deal with personal bills is not OK,” the Insiders host said.

“The reason that we have the code of conduct in place, the reason we have disclosure obligations in place is to provide transparency,” the Finance Minister said.

Christian Porter
Camera IconChristian Porter has been under fire after it was revealed he used a blind trust to pay legal fees. NCA NewsWire / Adam Yip Credit: News Corp Australia

“It’s important, as I said before, that all of us abide by the letter and spirit of that code of conduct.

“The Prime Minister, rightly, is seeking that advice to make sure that in this case, where a disclosure has been made, he is appropriately and fully informed around whether that disclosure meets that standard and if it doesn’t, what action needs to be taken.”

Mr Speers then opened the floor up to panellists, who all proceeded to hit out at Mr Birmingham for his non-response.

“This is the first time that ministers or MPs haven’t had a personal opinion on practically any matter before the Australian public,” reporter Amy Remeikis said.

Insiders host David Speers as he interviews Finance Minister Simon Birmingham
Camera IconInsiders host David Speers would not accept the Minister’s answer. Credit: ABC

“They have personal opinions on lockdowns, on climate change, on sexuality, on who can get married. But on this particular issue, suddenly, it’s off limits? And that has been the issue with all of this.”

“I think that Christian Porter’s colleagues would privately be saying or thinking that he’ll be thinking probably about his own future and whether he wants to keep battling on, given some of the controversies that have come across him over the last few months or year or so,” Australian Financial Review economics editor John Kehoe said.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking legal advice on the matter to ascertain if it was in breach of ministerial guidelines.

On Friday, he told 3AW the matter was not “ordinary”.

“These are not ordinary arrangements, and that’s why we’re seeking to have a full understanding of them,’’ Mr Morrison said.

Mr Porter maintains his disclosure was undertaken in accordance required under parliamentary rules.

Originally published as Finance Minister hammered over Christian Porter donation in live TV trainwreck

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