Christian Porter appeal over barrister a ‘matter of principle’, court told
Christian Porter’s appeal against his barrister being barred from acting in his since-settled defamation case against the ABC is a “matter of principle”, a court has been told.
The former attorney-general sued the national broadcaster for defamation over a story by journalist Louise Milligan alleging an unnamed senior minister had been accused of raping a woman in 1988 when he was a teenager.
Following intense public speculation, the West Australian MP publicly outed himself as the accused minister and strongly denied the allegation. No charges have ever been laid.
The woman who alleged Mr Porter had raped her, known as Kate, died by suicide in mid-2020.
Mr Porter briefed high-profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC in his case against the ABC, but she was restrained from acting for him in a spin-off legal dispute brought by Joanne Dyer, a friend of Kate’s.
Ms Dyer argued she had given Ms Chrysanthou confidential information related to Kate in a legal discussion in November 2020, and Justice Tom Thawley ruled there was a risk of that information being used, even inadvertently, in the ABC defamation case.
The MP for Pearce is now appealing that decision, with a hearing expected in February 2022.
Justice John Middleton on Friday morning asked Mr Porter’s barrister Callan O’Neill if the appeal was “a fight about costs”.
Mr O’Neill said that was one way of looking at it, but it was also “a matter of principle”.
“The way in which this was conducted by separate proceedings and also … the way in which it was held are very important matters for how it is an application of this type should be made and heard in the future,” he said.
Mr O’Neill added there were also “issues for those who were in the proceeding” as to where it went from this point, adding that he was “speaking opaquely for a reason”.
Justice Middleton said if it was just about costs, he was going to suggest the parties go to mediation, but it seemed to be “beyond that”.
“Although often matters of principle go away when sufficient money is paid over,” the judge said.
On mediation, Mr O’Neill said: “I don’t hold out much hope.”
Mr O’Neill told the court Mr Porter was seeking further evidence about former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson apparently being briefed to act for Ms Dyer before that brief was returned and Mr Gleeson was briefed by the ABC in the defamation case.
Mr O’Neill said Ms Dyer opposed further evidence being released, and if Mr Porter’s application was granted, she would seek further evidence in response.
Justice Middleton said the issue could be dealt with by the Full Court at the appeal hearing next year.
Ms Dyer’s lawyer, Shipra Chordia, told the court her client was considering making an application for security for costs in the appeal.
The hearing is expected to take between one to three days in early 2022.
Mr Porter resigned from the federal ministry last month after revealing a blind trust had funded part of his legal fight against the ABC.
He tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison after concluding he was unable to reveal further information about the anonymous donation in order to rule out a perceived conflict of interest.
Originally published as Christian Porter appeal over barrister a ‘matter of principle’, court told
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