Scott Morrison says Australians understand 'human frailty' as senior ministers' conduct questioned

Christian Porter fired back at the ABC's Four Corners report in a statement on Monday night.

Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, November 2, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, November 2, 2020. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expects Australians to understand "human frailty" as the conduct of two of his senior ministers comes under the spotlight.

Attorney-General Christian Porter is considering legal action after Four Corners revealed he was questioned by Malcolm Turnbull following an alleged incident in a Canberra bar involving a Liberal party staffer.

The Four Corners program also uncovered details of an affair between former political staffer Rachelle Miller and acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.

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Mr Morrison on Tuesday said neither Mr Tudge nor Mr Porter had breached ministerial standards while he was prime minister.

However, he said he took the broader issues raised by the program "extremely seriously".



"I think Australians understand human frailty, and I think they understand the people who work in this place are just as human as anyone else and subject to the same vulnerabilities and frailties as anyone," he said.

"These things happen in Australia. They happen in people's lives. And people greatly regret them. And they do tremendous damage to people's families and the lives of many others."

Mr Porter in a statement on Monday night said he "categorically rejected" how the Four Corners program characterised the alleged bar incident, adding that other claims made by the program were defamatory. 

He told 6PR radio the incident involved nothing more than having a drink with a woman in a bar.

A fortnight before being appointed federal attorney-general, Mr Porter was questioned by Mr Turnbull, the then-prime minister, about reports of public drinking as well as his behaviour towards the woman.

Mr Turnbull told the program he spoke to Mr Porter in December 2017 about reports the soon-to-be attorney-general had been seen drinking too much.





"I had a meeting with Porter in my office and I told him that I had had reports of him being out in public, having had too much to drink, and in the company with young women," Mr Turnbull told the ABC. 

"And I said, 'This is unacceptable conduct for a cabinet minister and it exposes you to the risk of compromise'."

The role of attorney-general entitles the office-bearer to a seat on the National Security Committee.

"The risk of compromise is very real - it's not just the stuff of spy novels," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Porter, who remains the Morrison government's attorney-general, fired back at the Four Corners report in a statement on Monday night.

"Four Corners' depiction of interactions in the bar are categorically rejected," he said.

Mr Porter said about his 2017 meeting with Mr Turnbull that the then-prime minister queried whether there was any accuracy to the "story" he had heard, and that the "answer was no".

"Malcolm then promoted me to attorney-general less than two weeks later," he said.

The Four Corners program also revealed old university law school magazines in which Mr Porter made demeaning remarks towards women.

"I apologise for material I wrote in a law school magazine 24 years ago. I obviously wouldn't write that now and it is something I regret," Mr Porter said in the statement.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge
Alan Tudge at Parliament House in Canberra Source: AAP


The Four Corners program also uncovered details of an affair between former political staffer Rachelle Miller and acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.

Ms Miller said while her relationship with Mr Tudge was consensual, she now wanted to speak about the overall "poor behaviour" within Parliament House.

"I lost a lot of self-confidence because I didn't feel I had any power at all to stand up for myself," said the adviser, who has left Mr Tudge's office.

Mr Tudge issued a brief statement after the program aired.

"I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried to draw a line under the allegations on Tuesday, while also acknowledging the issues raised were "very important". 

"I do take this issue extremely seriously," he said. 

"In terms of the individuals subject to the report last night, those matters were addressed by my predecessor at the time, and they relate to issues that predated that ministerial standard."

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said the claims made in the program were "pretty seedy" and women staffers in Parliament House had a right to feel safe and supported.

"But I don't think a lot of MPs go to Canberra and, you know, play up and get on the beers every night," Mr Shorten said.

With AAP.


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5 min read
Published 10 November 2020 at 11:55am
By SBS News
Source: SBS