ABC journalist Louise Milligan settles with Liberal MP Andrew Laming over tweet

Luke CostinAAP
The ABC will pay federal MP Andrew Laming damages and legal fees for a reporter's defamatory tweet.
Camera IconThe ABC will pay federal MP Andrew Laming damages and legal fees for a reporter's defamatory tweet. Credit: AAP

The ABC will pay Liberal MP Andrew Laming $79,000 plus costs after its investigative journalist Lousie Milligan agreed to settle a legal claim over a defamatory tweet.

Dr Laming has taken issue with reporting that he upskirted a woman, saying a photo he took of a woman bending over in a workplace was not wearing a skirt.

Police investigated and found no evidence of a criminal offence, he says.

He launched legal action in June against Milligan after he said she failed to apologise for wrongly accusing him of upskirting and linking of him to an investigation into Canberra’s workplace culture.

Milligan on Wednesday agreed to pay Laming $79,000 in damages plus costs.

“As previously stated, the ABC decided to pay Ms Milligan’s costs in this matter, a decision arising from particular and exceptional circumstances,” a spokeswoman for the broadcaster said.

Milligan published four tweets on March 28, beginning with a statement that Dr Laming was one of the names “volunteered to me in off the record conversation with women staffers & politicians” when she was researching for Inside the Canberra Bubble.

The November 2020 Four Corners episode purported to unveil the culture towards women in Parliament House.

Milligan’s tweet thread also included comments purportedly from an unnamed, female Liberal staffer saying Dr Laming would be sacked immediately if he was in the corporate world.

A tweet on April 15 listed “Laming upskirts” along with references to Brittany Higgins, Christine Holgate and a dance troupe that twerked at a navy event.

The tweets have since been deleted, as has the “tweets *not* deleted” line in Milligan’s Twitter bio.

Milligan posted a statement saying she hadn’t included Dr Laming’s denials in a “broader Twitter discussion about gender and politics”.

“Twitter is a truncated and imperfect medium,” she said on June 17, urging readers to read a linked news article.

But Dr Laming claimed the statement was “self-serving”, had a “sensational, accusatory and spiteful tone” and aggravated his hurt.

In a defamation claim filed in the Federal Court, the MP said Milligan’s tweets carried meanings that he was such a danger to women he should leave parliament immediately.

After the reports into the photograph and allegations he harassed two other women, Dr Laming went on a month of paid medical leave for counselling and empathy training.

The ophthalmologist has since sought numerous apologies and retractions over the claims he “upskirted” a woman.

The ABC said resolving the claim avoids a potentially protracted and costly legal action.

Milligan’s original posts were “in good faith” but one contained an honest error that had been widely reported by other outlets and politicians, it said.

Her deletion of the tweets in June was followed by a “substantial statement correcting the record”.

Evan Mulholland, communications director at right-wing think-tank Institute of Public Affairs, said it was “absolutely crackers” that taxpayers were footing the bill due to “particular and exceptional circumstances”.

“She wasn’t working on a story about Andrew Laming. Would the ABC do the same for a cadet reporter at ABC Southbank? One would think not,” he tweeted.

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