Bid to shred Porter-ABC docs hits snag

·3-min read

A judge has raised a significant issue with the agreement struck between Christian Porter and the ABC to end the federal minister's defamation case and destroy some documents held by the Federal Court.

Mr Porter took action over a February 26 article about a now-deceased woman's claim he had raped her decades earlier. He denies the allegation.

As part of the former attorney-general and the public broadcaster's settlement announced on Monday, both parties were to ask the Federal Court for an order that sections of the ABC's defence be permanently removed from the court file.

The sections are currently under an interim suppression order after Mr Porter raised an objection and applied to have the defence struck out.

But Justice Jayne Jagot said she would have to be convinced why the court should remove files held by the court.

"You've filed orders in a court, it doesn't then become a matter for you about what is to be disclosed or not disclosed," she told the parties on Tuesday.

"I want to keep the costs as low as possible but this is an unavoidable issue if you want to press (the order)."

The ABC took a neutral position on the matter, while intervening parties Nine and News Corporation continued to push for the release of the documents.

"Our position is it is a consent order between the parties," a lawyer for Mr Porter said.

"That's not the point," the judge responded.

There must be a reason to remove something from a court file, and it wouldn't be done purely because parties wanted it, Justice Jagot said.

"There is a fundamental issue about the integrity of the court file and why a court would allow the removal of a document from a court file," she said.

A hearing on the issue will be held in coming weeks.

Given that, the case remains on foot and the court has not signed off on the parties' settlement.

Should the settlement fall apart, the case could be revived and progress to trial.

As part of the settlement announced on Monday, the ABC has added an editor's note to the February 26 article acknowledging Mr Porter is the "unnamed cabinet minister".

The note says the ABC "did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged" and that they didn't contend the accusations could be substantiated to a civil standard.

"However, both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted," it says.

The broadcaster late on Monday hit back at Mr Porter's claims hours earlier that the article was "sensationalist", saying it was an "accurate and factual report" on a letter sent to three senior politicians including the prime minister.

"The ABC has never and still does not accept that the article suggested guilt on the part of Mr Porter," the broadcaster said in a statement.

It also took issue with Mr Porter's suggestion that the ABC requested mediation after revelations from a related case involving the deceased woman's friend Jo Dyer and Porter's silk Sue Chrysanthou SC.

"The ABC categorically rejects the claim that Louise Milligan 'coached' Jo Dyer. The suggestion is not only an insult to Ms Milligan but also to Ms Dyer's intelligence and integrity," the ABC said.

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