Christian Porter thanks Peter Dutton and Peter van Onselen in farewell speech to parliament

<span>Photograph: Martin Ollman/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

The former federal attorney general, Christian Porter, has paid tribute to Peter Dutton and the Ten Network’s political editor, Peter van Onselen, for supporting him after he was accused of a historical rape allegation.

In his final speech to parliament hours before Tuesday’s budget, Porter said in 2021 he had “experienced a mob of people so actually convinced in their own judgment that they didn’t need anything else other than their own judgment”.

Porter announced in December 2021 he would not recontest his West Australian seat of Pearce at the upcoming federal election. Earlier in the year, he had identified himself as the subject of an ABC story alleging an unidentified cabinet minister had been accused of a January 1988 rape in a dossier sent to Scott Morrison and three other parliamentarians.

Related: Labor demands Christian Porter resign before election after changes to ‘blind trust’ disclosure rules

Porter strenuously denied the allegations but moved to the backbench after launching a defamation action against the ABC and reporter Louise Milligan.

In late May 2021, Porter agreed to discontinue the case after the ABC stated it did not intend to suggest Porter had committed the alleged offence and that it regretted that “some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter”.

“I saw the real truth about how critical the protection of the rule of law is and how fragile and how every man and woman in this country should fight for those protections as if their lives depend on it,” Porter said in his valedictory speech on Tuesday.

The former attorney general paid tribute to the “love and friendship” that kept him going. He said while some people “will join a mob and others will slink away [and] some will think they can harness in their own interest” he would never forget the support he received from the defence minister, Dutton, and Van Onselsen.

“Peter van Onselen and Peter Dutton knowing the risks better than any two people could possibly know the risks, they stated plain public support for me while the mob was in its full fury,” Porter said. “I’ve got to say they were acts of courage that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

In the Australian newspaper in March last year, Janet Albrechtsen, along with Van Onselen – a longtime friend of Porter’s – published details from the dossier put together by friends of the alleged rape victim who killed herself in 2020.

At the time, Van Onselen was criticised for comments made on the ABC’s Insiders program about his uneasiness with the allegation against Porter.

“At a macro level, I couldn’t be happier that there’s a shift that has occurred and women are coming forward,” he said. “But when it’s someone you know and if they claim to be innocent, boy that’s a difficult issue.”

Porter devoted much of his final speech on Tuesday to the subject of China – stating he was much more concerned about the risk posed by Beijing than when he entered parliament nine years ago.

“Autocratic powers who’ve experienced massive economic growth and expansion almost invariably tend to push their political power to the edge of their strategic military capability. And in the simplest terms, our world’s capability, balance is changing radically,” he said.

Related: Christian Porter starts two new companies and signals ‘possible writing ventures’

Porter said the Coalition’s view on China had changed significantly but Labor was yet to go through the same evolution.

Porter also criticised Australia for “falling into this cycle” of being “preoccupied with the identity politics of every imaginable boutique type”.

“At worst, there’s become this regularisation in the abandonment of fundamental foundational western principles. The things that have made us privileged – free speech, due process, free association – are too regularly … tossed aside.

“Tossed aside when it becomes too hard in the daily news cycle to resist the demand to abandon them to produce some other outcome desired by the best organised and noisiest interest of the day.”