Who is Christian Porter?
Tuesday, 22nd September 2015 at 12:47 pm
Just who is Australia’s newest Minister for Social Services and what can the Not for Profit sector expect from WA MP Christian Porter? Journalist Xavier Smerdon investigates.
“I am intent to bask in this warmth before people get to know me and it grinds to an inevitable halt.”
That was how Australia’s new Social Services Minister introduced himself to the Australian Parliament when he made his maiden speech just last year.
Before Sunday almost no one in the social sector would have heard of Christian Porter.
But following the ousting of first term Prime Minister Tony Abbott and a cabinet reshuffle by his successor Malcolm Turnbull, they now need to get to know him – and quickly.
Just one day after being sworn in as Minister for Social Services, Porter has taken paternity leave as his wife Jennifer prepares to give birth to their first child.
|Christian Porter, far right.|
Prior to winning the Federal seat of Pearce at the 2013 election, Porter, the son of the 1956 Olympic high jump silver medalist, Charles "Chilla" Porter, served as a Minister in the WA State Government, holding various positions. At one point he was both the Attorney General and the Treasurer.
In December 2014, Porter was made a Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
His meteoric rise to the front bench of the Liberal Party caught many political commentators off guard so much so that he is now being touted as a potential future Prime Minister.
Holding a Bachelor of Economics, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Australia, as well as a Master of Science (Political Theory) from the London School of Economics, prior to politics, Porter worked as a lawyer in both the commercial and government settings.
Immediately before entering Federal Parliament, Christian was the Professor of Law at Curtin University.
The pressure is already being piled onto the new Minister, with Labor’s Shadow Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin saying that “Scott Morrison was appointed to clean up Kevin Andrew’s mess but left behind more chaos, confusion and cuts”.
Porter will take over responsibility for disability issues, chiefly the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), after Senator Mitch Fifield was promoted from Assistant Minister for Social Services to Communications Minister.
CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Matthew Wright, told Pro Bono Australia News that the lack of an Assistant Minister for Social Services in the Parliament would mean more work for Porter.
“It’s our view is that having direct access to the Minister for Social Services could in fact be beneficial for people with disability,” Wright said.
“There will, of course, be more demands on the the Minister and his advisors time, it’s therefore critical that due time be made available for people with disability and family organisations as we roll out of the NDIS.”
Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Cassandra Goldie, said Porter will have a critical role to play in securing the future of the social safety net and quality services for the community.
“This will require him to work with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that the path to fiscal repair is fair. It will also mean reviewing current policies which will harm those on the lowest incomes, including the proposed income support waiting period and cuts to family payments,” Goldie said.
“The Minister will need to grapple with some major policy challenges in the portfolio, including reforming the welfare system and working with other key ministers to reform housing policy settings to improve affordability. These challenges are complex but increasingly urgent.
“Welfare reform should seek to secure a decent standard of living, support people to secure paid work and achieve greater equity and simplicity across the system.”
Goldie urged Porter to introduce “a new standard of respect and civility in public debate, starting with the way we talk about people who are disadvantaged and at risk of poverty”.
Three things to know about Christian Porter.
Porter has never publicly declared his position on marriage equality.
In 2013 his name was included on a list of federal politicians that Australian Marriage Equality felt could be persuaded to support the issue.
In May this year however, he described the issue as a “distraction”.
“(It) is a very intensely, personally held view that a whole range of people on both sides of politics have about this particular matter,” Porter said.
“And that can provide a very large distraction for any political party or any Government and there are just larger things and more important things at stake which go to the heart of families livelihoods, to their childcare, and a whole range of matters I think that are immediately more important.”
Porter has already flagged cuts to welfare and has said he supports former Social Service Minister Scott Morrison’s plan to make young people wait four weeks for income support.
“You have to pursue those types of savings, particularly if they’re fair-minded, and I hand on heart absolutely think that they are,” Porter said of the plan.
Porter told The Australian newspaper that when it comes to his portfolio he would be focussing on sustainability.
“I’ve had a good look at the portfolio through the expenditure review of cabinet process and I’m fully aware of all the problems, perils and pitfalls in terms of service delivery,” he said.
“If we want to be generous to the people in greatest need, then we have to be as stringent as possible.”
As Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Porter had specific responsibility for implementing the Government’s deregulation agenda.
He oversaw the Government’s plan to reduce the red tape burden on individuals, small business and Not for Profits and to change the culture towards regulation.
This involved leading the Government’s two yearly parliamentary repeal days every year in a bid to cut $1 billion in regulation costs.