Former Liberal frontbencher Christian Porter has revealed he was spat at in the street after what he describes as a trial by media over “false” rape allegations, but he won’t be paying back the money secured through a blind trust that triggered his resignation.
After offering his resignation to the Prime Minister on Sunday after he was unable to disclose who donated to a trust fund that paid his defamation case legal fees, the MP has catalogued “vile” abuse that he said his staff, friends and family have been subjected to for months.
The legal fees were to cover the cost of a private defamation action he launched against the ABC.
Mr Porter sued over an article revealing an unnamed cabinet minister was the subject of a 1988 rape allegation. He chose to self-identify as the target of the allegation in March.
In late May, he discontinued the case after the ABC agreed to add an editorial note to the story stating it did not intend to suggest Mr Porter had committed the alleged offence and that “both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt”.
The story remains online.
The ABC did not pay him any damages but did agree to pay $100,000 towards the cost of the mediation towards settlement of the matter, leaving him with huge legal bills.
The national broadcaster spent $780,000 on its own legal fees, providing some insight into the potential scale of his own legal bills.
But the fallout went beyond financial and had led to vile abuse from strangers according to Mr Porter.
“Facing a false allegation is an experience that places your family, friends and staff under enormous and cruel pressure,’’ he said.
“It has resulted in constant abuse and ongoing threats. For me personally, the physical threats of violence, the experience of being spat at and publicly abused for something I didn’t do has been nearly beyond comprehension in a civilised country.”
Mr Porter went on to describe the allegations raised by his late accuser, who died by suicide last year as “bizarre” and based on “repressed memory syndrome” which is “dangerous and discredited”.
His accuser and her supporters have previously rejected suggestions that her recollections are based on recovered memories.
Mr Porter insists the events claimed “never happened” and he never had sex with the woman in 1988.
The former Attorney-General said the tragic death of the woman – who died by suicide just 24 hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a complaint at that time – meant it was impossible for him to prove his innocence.
“It is almost impossible – for anyone – to prove that something did not happen, let alone to positively disprove what are at times completely bizarre allegations about something claimed in an unsigned document about a night 33 years ago, where the person withdrew the complaint and is now sadly deceased,’’ he said.
“From that point, when the reporting on both social media generally, and in parts of the mainstream media, shifted from a presumption of innocence to one of guilt, an impossible standard was set for any person to meet – politician or not.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo / NCA Newswire
He accused the ABC and other media outlets of not reporting all of the information that was relevant to assessing the credibility of the complainant.
“The most frightening indicator that the public broadcaster was central to this shift to a presumption of guilt in a trial by media is the fact that the ABC – seemingly with great care and effort – has reported only those parts of the information that it has in its possession which feeds into its narrative of guilt,’’ he said.
“I have recently been provided from a source outside the ABC with a copy of the only signed document that the person who made and subsequently withdrew the complaint ever made. Many parts of that 88-page document are such that any reasonable person would conclude that they show an allegation, that lacks credibility; was...