Scott Morrison has defended blocking an investigation into former Attorney General Christian Porter receiving anonymous donations for legal fees.
The Prime Minister argues that the government’s decision to support a broader investigation into the crowdfunding of MPs’ court fees will solve the problem.
House Speaker Tony Smith said it seemed appropriate to refer the issue of Mr Porter’s donations to the powerful Privileges Committee.
But the coalition used its figures to block Labor’s attempt to refer the case to investigation.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said that the idea that Mr Porter did not know where the money was coming from defied belief.
“Yesterday in parliament we witnessed an extraordinary event – 120 years of precedent have been rejected,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Mr. Morrison dismissed the opposition’s outrage as playing politics.
“There are a lot of other MPs who have been in this predicament on how they fund the legal fees to pursue libel actions,” he told the Nine Network.
“It’s not just a member. There are other members and we need to clarify the rules.”
The prime minister said the privileges committee’s broader investigation could determine the rules for funding libel actions against politicians.
“Let’s make these rules very clear for everyone,” Mr. Morrison said.
Mr Albanese said the speaker’s decision that there was a “prima facie” case for further consideration had been challenged.
“Mr. Porter has an obligation to declare where these donations come from,” he said.
“If this does not happen, the pecuniary interest register, a vital principle and process for preventing corruption in parliament, is rendered redundant.
“No wonder Mr. Porter never presented the anti-corruption commission promised by Scott Morrison more than 1,000 days ago.”
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has joined in the government’s condemnation by avoiding an investigation of Mr Porter.
“It’s a political donation – let’s call it what it is – in a brown paper bag and it’s absolutely disgusting,” she told Nine.
Mr Porter revealed last month that anonymous legal donations were used to help fund the libel action he had launched against the CBA.
The former attorney general has vigorously denied the allegation that he raped a woman who now died in 1988, after the broadcaster revealed a story in which an anonymous minister was the subject of the complaint.
The case was settled before trial.
Mr Porter then resigned from the firm due to the so-called blind trust that helped finance his legal bills.
Australian Associated Press