Former Liberal party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has filed another defamation suit, this time against the ABC.
Lehrmann filed the proceedings on Wednesday afternoon with an originating application, a statement of claim and a genuine steps statement. The documents were unsealed by the court on Thursday and reveal that he is suing the ABC over its broadcast of the National Press Club address on 9 February last year and a related YouTube video.
Lehrmann said that the broadcast conveyed the defamatory meaning that he raped his former colleague Brittany Higgins on a couch in Parliament House. He denies the charge.
Higgins did not name Lehrmann in her address but said that: “I was raped on a couch in what I thought was the safest and most secure building in Australia. In a workplace that has a police and security presence 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The parliament of Australia is safe – it is secure – except if you’re a woman. If what happened to me can happen there, it can happen anywhere. And it does. It happens to women everywhere.”
When contacted, an ABC spokesperson said it did not have a comment at the time.
Lehrmann’s lawyers argue he was readily identifiable as the person accused of raping Higgins. He was later named in the press in August 2021 after he was charged with sexual intercourse without consent.
However, his trial last year was aborted after juror misconduct. The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions did not pursue a retrial of the case over concerns around Higgins’ health.
This defamation suit is the latest in a string of cases brought by Lehrmann against Aussie media players. Lehrmann has filed proceedings against Ten, News Corp, and even former The Project host Lisa Wilkinson alleging that they had all made a series of defamatory remarks, including that he “raped Brittany Higgins in [then-]defence [industry] minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019.”
News Corp and Ten did not name Lehrmann at the time, only mentioning him by name in August 2021 when he was charged with sexual intercourse without consent.