ABC 'regrets' Porter report interpretation

·3-min read

The court action has settled but barbs continue to be traded by defamation litigant Christian Porter and the ABC over a report on a rape allegation.

The federal industry minister and the public broadcaster on Monday separately announced they had settled court action over a February 26 article about a now-deceased woman's claim that Mr Porter had raped her decades earlier.

Mr Porter denies the allegation and says the ABC's "sensationalist, one-sided reporting" of it defamed him by making out the incident occurred and led to her later suicide.

"I was astonished last Friday when they asked us into an urgent mediation," the WA MP told reporters in Sydney.

"They have been forced by my taking this action all the way to the court door, they have been forced to say they regret the article."

But journalist Louise Milligan, who authored the article and called for a public inquiry into the claim, stood by her journalism.

"(I am) grateful to the ABC & our brilliant legal team for supporting public interest journalism," she tweeted.

She said Porter proposed a settlement first, and would be happy to refresh his memory and release the terms "if he wants to dispute that".

The broadcaster will pay the cost of mediation but no damages will be paid.

"We are still absolutely committed to the 27 redacted pages being in the public domain. I am sure our colleagues in the media are too. We stand by the truth and the excellent witnesses who came forward and were prepared to put themselves on the line," Milligan said.

The court this week was to hear Mr Porter's application to strike out parts of the broadcaster's defence to his case.

Those pages, which had been subject to an interim suppression order, will be permanently removed from the court file by consent of both parties, Mr Porter's solicitor said.

"It is astonishing that Ms Milligan and other employees of the ABC have now seen fit to publish statements inconsistent with the settlement that they themselves personally agreed to," Rebekah Giles said late on Monday.

"The suggestion by Ms Milligan that she wants the defence to be released when she has (apparently in good faith) agreed to it being removed from the court file. This is further evidence of the malice alleged against the ABC and Ms Milligan in this case."

Mr Porter filed the claim for defamation on March 15, alleging the article about an unnamed cabinet minister and a 1988 rape claim was clearly about him.

He had sought aggravated damages, costs and removal of the article and related material on the web.

The ABC on Monday said it stood by its investigative and public interest journalism and described Milligan as "one of Australia's foremost and most awarded investigative journalists".

It agreed to add an editor's note to the article it "did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged".

"The ABC did not contend that the serious accusations could be substantiated to the applicable legal standard - criminal or civil," the note says.

"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."

The former attorney-general signalled an intention to run at the next election but batted away calls for an independent inquiry into the woman's claim.

"The things that are alleged to have happened just didn't happen," he said.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Mr Porter's decision to "abandon" the case meant Prime Minister Scott Morrison no longer had an excuse to refuse to hold an independent inquiry into the allegations.

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