Another Senate push for historical sexual assault allegations against Industry Minister Christian Porter to be investigated by a parliamentary committee has been shot down, with Jacqui Lambie the latest to call for an independent probe into the disputed claims.
A vote on her proposal, coming a week after the government used “unprecedented” gag tactics to block a similar motion from the Greens, ended up deadlocked at 26-26, meaning it was ‘negatived’ and unsuccessful. Yet another inquiry from Greens’ Senator Larissa Waters was also narrowly shot down on Wednesday.
“You can’t have a minister going around doing his day job while half the building’s questioning if he’s a rapist,” Senator Lambie said of her motion.
Senator Lambie proposed the historical sexual assault allegations against Mr Porter – which he vehemently denies – be investigated by Parliament’s finance and public administration references committee.
That committee, chaired by Labor’s Tim Ayres, would have been tasked to investigate “the adequacy of the Prime Minister’s actions to assess whether Minister Porter meets the requirements of the Prime Minister’s statement of ministerial standards”.
Tomorrow, I’m moving this. Unlike the other shots at setting up an inquiry, this is constitutional, it’s funded, it doesn’t trample of the separation of powers, it’s got terms of reference it can actually answer, and it’s actually able to pass and get moving. pic.twitter.com/YAhvJGboIl
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) June 22, 2021
More specifically, Senator Lambie’s proposal asked the committee to consider the allegations in light of the ministerial code, which says ministers must “uphold the laws of Australia and demonstrates appropriately high standards of personal integrity”.
Senator Lambie’s motion claimed “it does not appear that the Prime Minister has taken any significant action to assess” the allegations on that section of the code. It also asks for the committee to report on how to “resolve [the] conflict” between the presumption of innocence and maintaining public confidence in the ministry.
The Greens and Labor got behind Senator Lambie’s motion, while the Coalition and One Nation opposed. The vote ended a tie, at 26-26, and was therefore not approved.
Moments later, Senator Waters again moved her own, separate motion calling for an inquiry. That, too, was unsuccessful as the vote split on nearly identical party lines – with the only exception being Senator Lambie, who voted against the Greens motion.
It was the third time Senator Waters had been blocked from introducing the bill. She said she will try again on Thursday.
For the third time, I just tried to refer my Porter Commission of Inquiry bill to inquiry, and again Gov, PHON & Jacqui blocked it. Tomorrow on the anniversary of Kate’s death I’ll try *again* to progress the bill, no doubt with the same ppl blocking it. #justiceforkate #auspol
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) June 23, 2021
NSW Police investigated the historical claims against Mr Porter, detailed in a dossier written by a woman known only as Kate, who has since died. Police ruled there was insufficient admissible evidence to progress the case.
That has not stopped Labor and the Greens repeatedly calling for an independent investigation – potentially led by a former High Court judge – saying the allegations are a cloud over Mr Porter’s fitness to remain in Parliament.
Mr 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.
Last week, Senator Waters moved her motion for the first time, calling on the Senate to back an investigation into the sexual assault allegations. The government used parliamentary tactics, described as “extraordinary” by some long-term senators, to block the Greens from even introducing the bill, let alone having it debated or voted on.
Senator Waters claimed this tactic had been used just five times in the history of the Australian federal Parliament.
Senator Lambie voted against that motion, joining with the government and One Nation to block the proposal from being introduced. It was voted down 30-33.
She faced strong criticism from constituents afterwards, and later released a long statement on social media.
“I know a lot of you want to know why I voted against a Commission of Inquiry into Christian Porter yesterday,” she wrote on Facebook.
She demanded Mr Porter “get the accusation dealt with, one way or the other” but called the Greens’ proposal a “bad idea” and a “public show trial”. Instead, Senator Lambie believed that the only thing Parliament could investigate would be whether Mr Porter had breached ministerial standards.
“It’s not the place of the Senate to decide if a minister’s guilty or innocent of a crime. That can only be tested in a court,” she said.
She said the Greens bill, which would have set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry, would have been blocked in the House of Representatives anyway and claimed it wouldn’t have any funding since it began as a Senate motion.