A fresh push for an independent inquiry into damning allegations against Christian Porter was blocked straight away, in a government move that’s been slammed as a “virtually unprecedented” gag tactic.
“The government should be utterly ashamed of themselves,” Greens senator Larissa Waters railed in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
Just minutes earlier, she’d tried to introduce a private member’s bill into the Senate, calling on the government to set in motion an inquiry to probe the historical sexual allegations against Mr Porter.
NSW Police investigated the claims, but ruled there was insufficient admissible evidence to progress the case.
That has not stopped Labor and the Greens continuously calling for an independent investigation – potentially helmed by a former High Court judge – saying the allegations are a cloud over his fitness to remain in Parliament.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously ruled out such an inquiry, saying there was “not another process” for him to entertain and claiming it would violate conventions of natural justice.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Senator Waters tried to introduce a Senate motion, titled the Ministerial Suitability Commission of Inquiry Bill 2021. It would “establish an inquiry into whether Christian Porter is a fit and proper person to be a minister of state,” she said.
But the government blocked Senator Waters from even introducing the bill, joining with One Nation and Senator Jacqui Lambie to vote against its introduction.
“This is a shameful day for this government and the Australian Parliament,” Senator Waters later said.
“There are unresolved rape allegations against a cabinet minister and this government has taken an almost unprecedented decision to prevent us progressing a bill which would establish an independent inquiry to test those allegations.”
Senator Waters later claimed this had happened just five times in the entire history of the federal Senate.
BREAKING: Govt is BLOCKING me introducing a bill for a Inquiry into whether Mr Porter is fit to remain in Cabinet given the unresolved rape allegations. Blocking a bill is very very rare. This is a protection racket for the boys club from a Govt allergic to transparency! #auspol
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) June 16, 2021
Labor sources also called it “extraordinary” and “unprecedented”.
Mr Porter’s office declined to comment when approached for a statement.
Earlier, Senator Waters had previewed her bill at a press conference alongside Jo Dyer, a friend of the woman who made the allegations against Mr Porter.
Senator Waters said she hoped other senators would support her bill.
She said she’d look to have the bill referred to a Senate committee, which could then call witnesses – which could include associates of the claimant (Kate) and Mr Porter, and potentially police – to discuss whether there was a need to pass the bill calling for an independent investigation.
“The Australian people need confidence that the institutions of government, ministers in cabinet in particular, are fit and proper people to be making decisions on their behalf,” Senator Waters said.
“It’s untenable for the questions to remain over Christian Porter’s fitness to remain a minister.”
Ms Dyer said she was asking “all members of Parliament to support Senator Waters’ bill to establish an independent inquiry into the allegations of our friend Kate”.
“The serious allegations Kate levelled against Mr Porter have not been tested,” she said.
Ms Dyer raised questions over the police investigation into the allegations, including why it took so long to organise for Kate’s official statement to be taken before her death.
“Their failure to find a way to take the statement she’d spent years preparing to give, had a severe and deleterious effect on her already fragile mental health,” she claimed.
“I believe that lack of urgency was a contributing factor to her death.”
Following the blocking of her attempts to introduce the bill, Senator Waters issued a furious statement blasting the government.
“This is an astonishing abuse of process. It is Parliament’s job to debate important issues in the public interest,” she said.
“Whether a bill passes is a matter for Parliament, but denying the opportunity even for bills to be progressed and debated is not how democracy works.
“We are still able to move for this bill to be referred to committee for an inquiry, which is what we will do, and will also seek to reintroduce the bill – over and over again if we have to. We won’t let this go.”
- For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 13 11 14