Porter fights to keep lawyer

·3-min read

The Federal Court will hear a detailed account of a crucial meeting between Christian Porter's lawyer and two friends of the woman who claimed the then-attorney general had raped her, after Mr Porter lost a fight to fend off the evidence.

The meeting on November 20 is at the centre of a push to unseat defamation specialist Sue Chrysanthou SC from representing Mr Porter in his case against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan.

The now-industry, science and technology minister launched the defamation claim in March after the ABC published a story revealing the existence of the rape allegation.

Four months earlier, Ms Chrysanthou agreed to meet with festival director Jo Dyer to advise her on an unfavourable article published in The Australian. The article criticised Ms Dyer's appearance on a Four Corners program about the treatment of women in politics.

Ms Dyer brought her friend James Hooke, a senior managing director at the Macquarie Group, to the meeting.

Ms Dyer was a close friend of the woman who said Mr Porter raped her in 1988. Mr Hooke was the woman's friend and ex-boyfriend. Both discussed the rape claim with her before the woman took her own life in 2020.

Justice Tom Thawley is presiding over an urgent three-day hearing to decide whether Ms Chrysanthou must be restrained from being involved in Mr Porter's defamation case.

Ms Dyer says that she told Ms Chrysanthou confidential information during the 60-90 minute-long meeting.

"We say this is a straightforward case," her lawyer Michael Hodge QC said on Monday.

"There was a lawyer-client relationship between Ms Chrysanthou and Ms Dyer."

Ms Dyer told her things that weren't public and would be relevant to the defamation case, he said.

Mr Porter's lawyer, Christopher Withers SC, retorted that the ethical issue is "just a storm in a teacup".

The meeting was limited to discussing The Australian article, and Ms Chrysanthou doesn't have any information that Ms Dyer hasn't already made public herself, he said.

It was Mr Hooke's detailed account of the conference in Ms Chrysanthou's chambers that Mr Porter argued on Monday should not be admitted as evidence in the Federal Court.

Mr Hooke's affidavit is the first piece of evidence Ms Dyer's legal team have produced that details what was actually said in the meeting, Mr Porter's lawyer Christopher Withers SC said on Monday.

He received the affidavit on Saturday and called it an "act of desperation" that should not be accepted because it would derail Mr Porter's defamation case.

But Justice Thawley ruled that the evidence was central to the dispute.

The public interest in the case was such that it should not be decided without detailed evidence about what was said to Ms Chrysanthou.

Ms Chrysanthou and Ms Dyer were in correspondence over the article until March 4. Ms Chrysanthou accepted the brief from Mr Porter six days later. She informed Ms Dyer that she had done so on March 15, the same day Mr Porter filed proceedings.

Ms Dyer, Mr Hooke and Ms Chrysanthou are all expected to give evidence in the three-day hearing, which resumes on Tuesday.

A major battle in the defamation case - over whether the ABC's defence must be partially struck out - is scheduled to start next Tuesday.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting