A yearbook from more than three decades ago sheds light on Christian Porter’s privileged education in the cradle of Western Australia’s elite and how it prepared him for his path to power.
A copy of the 1987 edition of Cygnet, the annual magazine of Porter’s alma mater The Hale School, discloses that Porter’s nickname in Year 12 was actually ‘Politics’ and repeatedly celebrates his extra-curricular achievements.
The yearbook fetes Porter – whose father ran the state Liberal Party through the ’70s and ’80s – for his membership of a treeplanting group as well as his ‘commanding’ performances in school plays.
And it dwells upon how he was the school’s star debater, a fact the nation is now very familiar with.
That is an accomplishment which has come back to haunt Porter some 33 years later, with the senior Federal minister this past week denying claims he raped a fellow debater from Adelaide while in Sydney for a competition in January 1988.
The allegation resembles a crushing blow to the career of a Cabinet official well known to harbour prime ministerial ambitions – but who insists he’s not going anywhere.
A young Christian Porter was a Prefect at Perth’s The Hale School in 1987. He has denied allegations he raped a woman – who has since died – in January 1988
Man under pressure: The Attorney-General is clinging onto his job as he denies claims that he raped a woman when he was 17
A visibly shattered Porter this past week denied that he raped the Adelaide woman following a night of drinking and dancing in Kings Cross, saying: ‘It just didn’t happen.’
His boss Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted calls for an independent inquiry into Porter and his suitability to serve as the country’s chief law officer. That’s even as the highly educated Adelaide woman’s grieving family throw their support behind ‘any inquiry’ which could clear up the circumstances of their loved one’s death.
Mr Porter on Wednesday said he only knew the alleged victim briefly and remembered her as an ‘intelligent, bright, happy person’.
And as the school yearbook tells it, Porter, too, was full of potential back in the late ’80s.
He was a school prefect – in one photo, posing in a powder blue blazer alongside his headmaster – and captain of his house, Buntine, although not school captain.
Porter was celebrated in the yearbook for his ‘invaluable’ contribution to debating. That year, he led his house to victory in the annual competition, defeating future media personality and fellow politician Basil Zempilas’s Haynes house.
Porter was known for his ‘commanding’ and ‘particularly convincing’ roles in school plays, the yearbook said
The final was ‘a very entertaining debate conducted before the entire school’, the yearbook reported.
Porter was also hailed for his flair for drama. His performance as Sir Magnus Manifold in the school play Serenade was described as ‘commanding’.
A follow up role acting as ‘Oscar Browning A.O., Chairman of the Board’ in another drama, Googooewon, was ‘particularly convincing’.
‘(It) may augur well for his future business career,’ the yearbook writer quipped.
The magazine did actually foreshadow his future career path. A passage listing the nicknames of the boys involved in a tree-planting effort on Rottnest Island dubbed Porter ‘Politics’.
Others had more standard nicknames – including ‘Spaceman’ and ‘Mushroom’. But Porter has a political pedigree.
His former Olympic athlete father, Charles, was the state director of the West Australian Liberal Party through the 1970s and 80s. His grandfather, also Charles, was a Queensland state Liberal MP who served in Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s ministry.
Porter – dubbed ‘Politics’ – speaks during the ‘very entertaining’ school debating final against fellow Perth personality Basil Zempilas, from a rival house (far left)
Porter was a pupil at Perth’s famous Hale School – where Year 12 tuition presently costs about $26,000 a year. Fellow alumni include Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith and a long line of AFL and legal stars
After graduating from the Hale School, Porter studied Law and Economics at the University of Western Australia followed by the London School of Economics. He practised law as a commercial litigator at Clayton Utz, took the bar and served as a public prosecutor before being elected to the state Parliament.
Porter was appointed Treasurer and Attorney-General in Premier Colin Barnett’s government before making the jump to federal politics in 2013. Malcolm Turnbull – now one of his most vocal critics – appointed Porter the country’s top legal officer in 2017.
That success saw him added to online lists of prestigious ex-pupils who have graced school, including Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith and his baritone opera singer brother Sam, the state’s first Premier John Forrest, a chief justice and a Malaysian sultan.
But Porter’s career is now on the precipice amid a firestorm over the 33-year-old rape claims. The controversy is only worsened by the fact that his alleged victim took her own life at 49 last June – just one day after telling police she did not want to proceed with giving them an official statement.
NSW Police consider the case closed due to insufficient evidence but the South Australian Coroner may hold an inquest into the woman’s death – which Mr Morrison said he doesn’t oppose.
Porter is taking a two week mental health break from his high-powered position while pressure grows from the woman’s friends for an inquiry into the claims.
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