Unsolicited funds taken to fund a legal battle against the ABC has caused Christian Porter to resign from the Morrison cabinet and exiled him to the backbench.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Mr Porter had tendered his resignation as the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, following revelations he took $1 million in mystery funds to help support his axed legal fight against the public broadcaster.
Mr Porter has been at the centre of historical rape allegations, however the Prime Minister has previously resisted calls to stand him down or conduct an inquiry into the historical rape allegation.
Mr Morrison said Mr Porter being a beneficiary to a financial arrangement preventing him to disclose where funds were coming from did not satisfy a conflict of interest threshold.
The Prime Minister did note Mr Porter upheld ministerial standards by resigning and moving to the back bench, despite the unsolicited funds having breached those requirements.
"The inability for him to be able to practically provide further information because of the nature of those arrangements, if we were able to do that, that would allow the minister to conclusively rule out a perceived conflict," Mr Morrison said.
"As a result of him acknowledging that, he has this afternoon taken the appropriate course of action to uphold those standards by tendering his resignation as a minister."
In a statement following his resignation, Mr Porter vehemently denies any wrong doing, claiming the funds taken from the blind trust were in accordance with the financial disclosure rules of the Members' Register of Interests.
"Ultimately, I decided that if I have to make a choice between seeking to pressure the Trust to break individuals' confidentiality in order to remain in cabinet, or alternatively forego my cabinet position, there is only one choice I could, in all conscience make," Mr Porter said.
Scott Morrison had sought advice from his department after Mr Porter disclosed on Tuesday that he had accepted up to $1 million in mystery funds as part of a blind trust, to pay part of his personal legal fees for a now discontinued private defamation case against the ABC and ABC journalist Louise Milligan.
In a widely criticised move, the former minister updated his register of members' interests on Tuesday to include the blind trust, but has not declared the parties involved in it. Mr Porter, through his office, has defended the move as not a breach of the rules.
"I expect my ministers, all of them, and myself, to uphold the ministerial standards and to act in accordance with those ministerial standards, and Mr Porter by taking the decision he has done today," Mr Morrison said.
"It's about the standards for ministers to have an obligation to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest that is ultimately what has led the minister to make that decision."
"If he doesn't believe he can provide what we believe is necessary then it is the appropriate course of action for him to do that."
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor will take over Mr Porter's portfolio for the interim while the government search for his replacement.
Mr Morrison sought advice on the matter on Wednesday, but noted the ministerial department may provide him further guidance on the matter, once he returns from bilateral talks in the US with President Joe Biden.
Mr Porter will remain the member for the electorate of Pearce.
Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Porter still needs to disclose where the funds came from as a matter of integrity of the Parliament.
"He needs to answer where this money came from," Mr Albanese said.
"Members of Parliament, as well as ministers, just can't accept money from anonymous donors for a private legal matter."
The defamation case related to the ABC airing allegations he raped a woman, now known under the pseudonym "Kate", in 1988. Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations and they have not been tested in a court of law.
However in March, Mr Morrison sought advice of the Solicitor-General in relation to Mr Porter's move to launch the defamation proceedings. This led to Mr Porter being moved from the portfolio of Attorney-General to Industry, Science and Technology.
Mr Porter said ABC's investigations which did not name Mr Porter had unleashed an "angry mob" on Twitter regarding a rape allegation which he denies.
"From the moment the ABC article was published, I entered what appears to me now to be an inescapable media frenzy where the evidence, or in this case lack of it, appeared to be irrelevant," he said.
"Having set in motion its trial by accusation, the ABC unleashed the Twitter version of an angry mob."
On Friday, Mr Morrison had stated he believed "strongly in ministerial standards".
"It's a very serious issue. I'm taking it very seriously, and I will ensure that the ministerial standards are maintained," he told the ABC on Friday.
Mr Albanese urged the Minister's dumping and former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described his actions as a "shocking affront to transparency".
He also flagged the scandal was another reason why Labor's proposed anti-corruption commission should be established.
"It will investigate ministers where appropriate, it will investigate breaches of public faith because we need to restore public confidence in our political system," Mr Albanese said.
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