Key players behind push for Porter probe
The ongoing push for an independent inquiry into a rape claim against Christian Porter has been driven by a high-profile group of media figures, politicians, and cultural identities, many with strong links to Labor and left-wing politics and historic ties to the deceased alleged victim.
But even as Mr Porter has mounted a defamation claim against the ABC where he will have the opportunity to testify under oath, others worry that a non-judicial inquiry of the sort still being called for by Labor to determine if the Attorney-General is a "fit and proper" person to hold the role could endanger the rule of law.
Former deputy senior crown prosecutor turned barrister Margaret Cunneen SC told The Daily Telegraph that "the hard won rights we all have apply to everyone regardless of status, wealth, race or creed.
"We can't start saying that it will no longer apply to certain classes of people or we will one day find that it no longer applies to us," she said.
Many of the high-profile lawyers and academics calling for an independent inquiry into Mr Porter have a long history of left-wing advocacy and opposition to the Morrison government, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
Michael Bradley, the lawyer who represented the deceased woman at the centre of the historic rape claim against the Attorney-General, is managing partner of boutique law firm Marque and has fashioned himself as a left-wing legal expert on the issues of the day.
Since the allegations surfaced, Mr Bradley has appeared on outlets ranging from the ABC to Seven's Sunrise calling for Mr Porter to "step down".
"There needs to be an independent inquiry to look into this allegation and properly investigate it and come to a resolution," he told Today when the story first broke.
For a number of years, Mr Bradley wrote a regular column for the ABC's now defunct opinion site, The Drum, where he defended the contentious "Safe Schools" program, and backed in former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs' calls for a refugee who killed his wife to be released from immigration detention and given compensation.
Mr Bradley is currently a regular contributor to left-leaning online news site Crikey, where he has pondered whether independent MP Craig Kelly can be sued for spreading misinformation, attacked News Corp (publisher of this newspaper), and declared that Donald Trump's appointment of his last supreme court justice "signals the collapse of American democracy".
Meanwhile, barrister Geoffrey Watson SC has been among the most vocal members of the legal industry to call for an inquiry into Mr Porter, telling ABC's 730 recently "the public really now have got a right to know that this is being handled properly".
"It could well be that through these investigations, the cabinet minister's reputation is cleared. But that's the process we should be going through," he said.
A director at the Centre for Public Integrity, Mr Watson recently wrote at the Industry Super-backed New Daily website that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's appeals to "rule of law" in this case were anything but.
"A properly-designed inquiry could be held concurrently without compromising or trespassing upon anyone's rights, including Porter's," he wrote.
Last November, Mr Watson slammed the Attorney- General's proposed corruption watchdog, calling it "a hopelessly neutered commission" that "could do more damage than good".
"And because of all of the secrecy involved, a referral to Mr Porter's Commonwealth Integrity Commission will only facilitate covering up corruption, not expose it," he concluded.
In 2019, Mr Watson presented allegations of corruption at ICAC against a former NSW police minister that were later determined to be "unwarranted" yet the allegations still ended the minister's career.
Greg Barns SC, a barrister and national criminal justice spokesman for advocacy group Australian Lawyers Alliance, has written that Mr Porter is a natural target "for rage and anger about privileged white men who are the upholders of a patriarchal society" and that he "is a citizen with the same rights as the rest of us".
But he also has written that "the impact of the allegations on the capacity of Mr Porter to hold office as the first law officer and as the person responsible for the administration of justice in Australia at the Commonwealth level, has merit and should take place".
In 2019, Mr Barns tweeted that "(Christian Porter) was a hack WA prosecutor who has no intellectual capacity".
Mr Barns clashed with Mr Porter over whether members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should be allowed to provide legal assistance to a Liberal-backed challenge to Dan Andrews' draconian curfew laws in Victoria.
Originally published as Key players behind push for Porter probe