Christian Porter defamation action: ABC engages former solicitor general to lead defence

Christian Porter defamation action: ABC engages former solicitor general to lead defence

Christian Porter defamation action: ABC engages former solicitor general to lead defence,carthage news

The ABC has secured the former solicitor general, Justin Gleeson SC, to lead the national broadcaster’s defence to a high-stakes defamation action launched by the federal attorney general.

Christian Porter began defamation proceedings against the ABC and investigative journalist Louise Milligan in the federal court this week to counter “false allegations against him in relation to a person who he met when he was a teenager”.

The attorney general has engaged the services of top Sydney silk Bret Walker SC to lead the legal action.

Porter remains on mental health leave from parliament after naming himself as the cabinet minister implicated in a rape allegation dating from 1988 – an allegation Porter categorically denies.

As well as Gleeson, the ABC’s legal team includes Victorian barrister Renée Enbom QC, who has represented high-profile plaintiffs including Rebel Wilson and Daniel Johns, and the Sydney barrister Clarissa Amato, who has acted for a number of Australian publishers.

Gleeson last week urged Scott Morrison to “seek the advice of the solicitor general on the important questions of law that underpin the government’s current refusal to hold an inquiry into whether … Porter remains a fit and proper person to hold the high office of attorney general”.

Morrison, who rebuffed the suggestion, contends that holding an arms-length inquiry would offend the rule of law.

The prime minister has, however, asked the current solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue SC, for advice on how to handle potential conflicts of interest once Porter returns to work.

Morrison has acknowledged that Porter will have to delegate duties relating to the federal court and the ABC when he returns to work later this month.

Porter has launched the legal action in response to an article the ABC published online on 26 February. The article did not name the attorney general.

According to his statement of claim, lodged with the federal court, Porter argues that the article contained a number of defamatory imputations including that he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when he was 17 and that he is “reasonably suspected” by New South Wales police of having done so. The attorney general also argues the article suggested the alleged rape “contributed to her taking her own life”.

Legal experts predict the ABC’s principal defences in the case will be justification and proof of substantial truth.

The federal court has published a timetable for proceedings. Porter, who returns to work on 31 March, needs to provide further detail of his claim by 23 March. The ABC has to file its defence by 4 May. There will be a case management hearing on 14 May which is the week of the federal budget.

the guardien 

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