Christian Porter’s return to work ‘very difficult’, Labor says

Mr Porter may lose more of his ministerial responsibilities while his defamation case against the ABC runs.

Mr Porter may lose more of his ministerial responsibilities while his defamation case against the ABC runs.

Labor does not believe stripping Christian Porter of some responsibilities will be enough for the Attorney-General to return to work.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is not satisfied with a proposal to delegate Mr Porter’s functions relating to the Federal Court and ABC while he pursues defamation action over historical rape allegations.

Mr Albanese said there were a range of other duties, including overseeing the Sex Discrimination Act, the Attorney-General would still need to fulfil.

“It is going to be very difficult for the Attorney-General to just return to work and to pretend that all of us can unsee and unhear what has been said over recent weeks,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison must satisfy himself and the Australian people that Mr Porter was a fit and proper person to serve as a cabinet minister.

“We think that there needs to be a proper examination of the allegations that have been made,” Mr Albanese said.

“That hasn’t been possible by the NSW Police due to the circumstances of the woman taking her own life.”

The government has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the allegations, which are denied by Mr Porter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed to delegate some of Mr Porter’s responsibilities while the court case is afoot.

He wants Mr Porter to step back from certain aspects of the role to avoid any perceptions of a conflict of interest.

Mr Morrison is seeking independent legal advice on which roles Mr Porter should recuse himself from.

He indicated Mr Porter might need to relinquish other responsibilities in order to return.

Labor has questioned why Mr Morrison sought legal advice from the solicitor-general around Mr Porter’s return to work, but not to ensure whether he was a fit and proper person to retain the high-powered position.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young is concerned the Attorney-General will still oversee national consent laws, the establishment of a Commonwealth integrity commission and defamation law reform.

Senator Hanson-Young is also concerned Mr Porter could take part in cabinet discussions relating to ABC funding.

Senior cabinet minister Simon Birmingham said Mr Porter was not a member of the expenditure review committee, but would be wary of perceived conflicts arising out of any cabinet decisions around the ABC.

Mr Porter is seeking aggravated damages over a story that detailed historical rape allegation against a cabinet minister.

His lawyers allege the story – which did not name Mr Porter – was defamatory because it imputed he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 and that contributed to her taking her own life.

The Minister identified himself as the subject of the article two weeks ago.

His lawyer said he was forced to go public after news articles, social media posts and interviews made him easily identifiable to many Australians.

Mr Porter is due to return to work after mental health leave on March 31.

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