Christian Porter’s Anonymous Donation “Unusual”, Federal Finance Minister Says | australian politics

Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham admitted Christian Porter’s anonymous donation statement “is unusual” but declined to give a personal opinion on whether ministers should accept funds without knowing the source. .

The Coalition minister was repeatedly pressed on the issue during an interview with the ABC on Sunday. He said it was not his job to “express personal opinions” when asked if ministers of the crown should accept anonymous donations.

“It’s my job as a minister to work in government,” Birmingham said.

He said ministers had a duty to follow “the letter and spirit” of ministerial directives and that the prime minister had acted appropriately by seeking further advice from his department.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that this issue, where a disclosure has been made, but the disclosure itself presents other issues, is unusual. This is why he asked for precise and specific advice on this subject, as he did for the previous questions on conduct and compliance with the code of conduct.

Porter’s future in the limelight is underestimated after Scott Morrison’s announcement that he was seeking further advice on the matter. Porter said he received $ 1 million from a “blind trust” to help pay his legal fees for his now abandoned libel case against ABC and reporter Louise Milligan.

“The Prime Minister has done the right thing in this regard,” Birmingham said on Sunday.

“We must all act in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the ministerial code of conduct. The reason we have a code of conduct in place, the reason we have disclosure obligations in place, is to ensure transparency. The Prime Minister is rightly asking for advice to ensure that in this case, when a disclosure has been made, he is properly and fully informed as to whether that disclosure meets that standard and, if not. if so, what steps need to be taken. “

The code states that ministers “shall not seek or accept any kind of advantage or other consideration of value to themselves or to others in connection with the exercise or lack of an item. of their official functions as minister “and specifies that” ministers are required to exercise the functions of their public office unaffected by considerations of personal advantage or disadvantage.

In his statement, Porter said he had “no access to information about the conduct and financing of the trust.”

Last week, a spokesperson for the minister said Porter had “undertaken disclosure in accordance with registry requirements and in accordance with the disclosure by previous members of circumstances where the costs of personal legal affairs have been mitigated by contributions or fee reductions ”.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been one of the most vocal critics of the move, calling it a “shocking affront to transparency”.

Birmingham said it was not for him to give “personal opinions”, but said the Prime Minister was right to recognize “that this body raises serious questions”.

“That is why he has sought specific and appropriate advice from his ministry, and I look forward to receiving it, and the Prime Minister will no doubt act on that advice accordingly.”

Morrison is leaving for Washington earlier this week. He is due to meet with other Quad leaders, including US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Morrison declined to answer one way or another on Friday as to whether Porter would keep his ministerial post, even if he returned the money.

“I’m just not going to speculate on this. I say we are taking the right advice to make the right decisions to ensure that ministerial standards are met, ”the Prime Minister said.

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