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Christian Porter seeks to strike out sections of ABC’s defence in defamation case

Former attorney-general Christian Porter is seeking to strike out parts of the ABC’s defence in defamation proceedings concerning historical rape allegations.

The public broadcaster’s defence contains material that is “evasive or ambiguous” and/or scandalous, according to an application filed on behalf of Mr Porter.

The ABC filed its defence on Tuesday evening but it is yet to be released by the Federal Court.

Mr Porter in March launched defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan for publishing what he says are “false accusations” he was the subject of historical rape allegations.

The woman at the centre of the allegations died in June 2020.

Since the report’s 26 February publication, the West Australian MP has changed roles from attorney-general to industry, science and technology minister.

 

Mr Porter’s application, filed Wednesday and published Thursday afternoon, seeks to strike out one paragraph of the defence and three schedules.

It also seeks an order preventing publication of the three schedules until further order of the court.

The material in the schedules is of a scandalous, frivolous or vexatious nature, is evasive or ambiguous, or are otherwise an abuse of the process of the court, Mr Porter’s application claims, referencing phrases in Federal Court Rules.

The court is also asked to order the ABC to provide more information on certain denials outlined in the defence.

The parties are due to face off virtually in court for the first time on Friday morning, before Justice Jayne Jagot.

While the report referred to an unnamed cabinet minister, Google searches for ‘Christian Porter’ after the article’s publication spiked to a greater extent than any other male frontbencher, his lawyers state in court documents. 

By 3 March, a Google search of “who is the minister accused of rape” would return Mr Porter’s name, and Mr Porter was widely identified on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, the lawyers say.

Mr Porter revealed himself as the subject of the allegations on 3 March.

Milligan is also accused of directing her Twitter followers before 3 March to the #cabinetminister hashtag, through which Mr Porter was identified by members of the public.

Mr Porter is seeking aggravated damages, costs and removal of the article and related material on the internet.

In another document published on Thursday, the ABC said the allegedly defamatory article received 264,658 unique page views before Mr Porter revealed himself as its subject.

More than half came from NSW and Victoria, while 26,710 were in the MP’s home state.

The article was accessed another 22,575 times nationwide between the beginning of Mr Porter’s 3 March press conference and 25 April. 

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