Christian Porter To Sue The ABC For Defamation

Christian Porter To Sue The ABC For Defamation

Christian Porter, Attorney-General, has begun defamation proceedings against the ABC in the Federal Court.

Lawyers for Porter filed a statement of claim on Monday seeking damages, and aggravated damages, for an article published by the ABC on February 26th. Porter alleged that the article portrayed him as the perpetrator of a “brutal” rape in 1988, which was a factor in a woman taking her own life.

The article is headlined ‘Scott Morrison, senators and AFP told of historical rape allegations against Cabinet Ministers’. It was written by Louise Milligan for Four Corners, who has been named as a party in the lawsuit.

Porter was not named in the article. One of his lawyers, solicitor Rebekah Giles, said in a statement that, “over the last few weeks, the Attorney-General has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations.”

“The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings.”

Allegedly defamatory claims by the ABC included that Porter was “reasonably suspected by police” of rape. Giles also said that “the attorney general was easily identifiable to many Australians as the subject of the allegations.”

Porter’s name trended on Twitter after the story was published.

His lawyers highlighted factors leading to this identification in the statement of claim. These included the fact that Porter was the subject of a Four Corners broadcast in November 2019 which contained allegations of inappropriate conduct by Porter, which the claim argues presented Porter as a “sexist and misogynist”.

Giles said that “the claims made by the ABC and Ms Milligan will be determined in a court in a procedurally fair process.”

Porter’s legal team also includes Bret Walker, SC, and Sue Crysanthou, SC. Both Crysanthou and Walker represented Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who alleges that she was raped by another staffer, in her settlement against Defense Minister Linda Reynolds.

The statement of claim argues that the ABC, and Milligan, selected sections of the woman’s statement which made the allegations “appear as credible as possible when there were other significant portions of the Dossier which demonstrated that the allegations were not credible.”

He was then “obliged” to identify himself, which he did on March 3rd via a press conference.

Giles also said that “if the ABC and Ms Milligan wish to argue the truth of the allegations, they can do so in these proceedings – under the Defamation Act it is open for the ABC and Ms Milligan to plead truth in their defence to this action and prove the allegations to the lower civil standard”.

The ABC has not yet filed a defence, though they will at a later date. If they rely on a defence of truth – where they have to prove that their reporting was correct – it could result in a rape trial occurring through the medium of a civil case.

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