No Mirabella push, Wyatt tells Vic court

Declan Martin

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt says he was approached by former Liberal colleague Sophie Mirabella to get their "evidence right" about a controversial photo opportunity.

Mr Wyatt entered the witness box in the Victoria County Court on Monday at Wangaratta where Ms Mirabella is suing weekly newspaper The Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price.

The newspaper published an article in April 2016 about an encounter five days earlier with Indi member Cathy McGowan, describing how Ms Mirabella pushed her successor out of a photo opportunity with Mr Wyatt.

Ms Mirabella denies the push and claims the article had devastating consequences for her public profile.

At a June 2017 federal Liberal council meeting Mr Wyatt said Ms Mirabella told him "we need to get our evidence right".

"I said 'the comment is inappropriate, I am a Justice of Peace' and the conversation ceased," he told the court on Monday.

Ms Mirabella told the court previously she did not raise such a conversation.

Mr Wyatt said he had been willing to have a photo with Ms McGowan, the sitting member who unseated Ms Mirabella in 2013, at the opening of new wing at an aged-care facility at Benalla.

"Ms Mirabella came over and asked me not to have a photo with Cathy," he said.

"She placed her hands over the middle of my chest for about one minute.

"If I'd move to turn there would have been pressure exerted either way."

Mr Wyatt said repeatedly that Ms Mirabella did not push Ms McGowan during the event.

The Benalla Ensign has since admitted the push did not occur, but together with Ms Price are fighting the case, arguing the article was substantially true and "pushed" was used as a figure of speech.

The trial before a jury of six people continues.