22/10/2008 - 22:00

Porter puts faith in trusted allies

22/10/2008 - 22:00

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SETTLING in to one of the toughest portfolios in government, Christian Porter knows that the role of the attorney-general is as much about law as it is spinning the political wheel.

SETTLING in to one of the toughest portfolios in government, Christian Porter knows that the role of the attorney-general is as much about law as it is spinning the political wheel.

"I think it is a fantastic job and the opportunities it presents are enormous, as are the responsibilities. Perhaps for lawyers, though, it's not the job for every lawyer because you are at once a lawyer, an elected representative and a politician," he told WA Business News from his Allendale Square office.

It's been five weeks since the Liberal Party was elected to government in an alliance with the National Party, making Mr Porter the youngest attorney-general in Western Australia's history.

As one of the youngest in the WA parliament (there are only four under 40), the 38-year-old Mr Porter has aligned himself with top Liberal brass like Premier Colin Barnett to ease his transition into the role as head of justice.

Stopping short of calling the premier his mentor, Mr Porter said forming alliances in parliamentary circles was important, but finding his own way through the political process had equal value.

The former Hale School graduate said he had an inner circle of about six colleagues from whom he regularly sought assistance, a team he dubbed the 'kitchen cabinet'.

"I think that for young parliamentarians it's very wise to have a group of five or six or so people who are experienced in different areas that you can constantly call on, either together or separately, for advice because you certainly don't know everything," Mr Porter said.

"I've got five or six people in my life who have had experience with government or in politics, or in the media in fact, who I will speak to on a regular basis for ideas or to seek advice."

Within his own office, Mr Porter's staff advisers include Peter Phillips, who's in charge of policy, media secretary Amy Jones, chief of staff Damian Creedon, and legal officer Jim Thomson, who has served many attorneys-general over his long career.

As a lawyer with experience in both public and private practice, Mr Porter has always drawn from experiences of those around him, citing the likes of Simon Stone and Robert Cock from the Department of Public Prosecutions as his legal mentors.

The avid jogger began his legal career working as a commercial litigator at national law firm Clayton Utz, where as a junior lawyer he was involved in major pieces of litigation, as well as trial counsel in a number of civil cases.

Later, after one year working as a legal adviser for the federal justice minister in 2001, Mr Porter joined the office of the DPP for Western Australia, and was soon promoted to senior state prosecutor.

He held that position until February this year when he entered politics after winning the by-election for the seat of Murdoch following the death of Trevor Sprigg.

Despite Mr Porter's rapid rise in politics and growing public profile, the former law school lecturer has maintained a strong sense of self, saying it was too late to change his fundamental character for the purposes of interacting with the media.

"The reality is that when you are under intense and ongoing public scrutiny you have to always ensure you realise that you're under that scrutiny," Mr Porter said.

"I'm still going to wear ugg boots down to the deli on a Sunday morning.

"Even though I'm young, I know who I am; I've been the same person for a long time. I know what I'm in government to do, I know the things I believe in and the things I don't believe in."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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