Christian Porter discontinues defamation case against the ABC and Louise Milligan

Christian Porter discontinues defamation case against the ABC and Louise Milligan

Porter

Christian Porter has discontinued his high-profile defamation case against the ABC and Louise Milligan, less than three months after he launched the case, and just days after agreeing to attend mediation behind closed doors.

Porter, Australia’s former Attorney-General and now Minister for Science, Industry and Technology, launched defamation proceedings against the ABC in March, over an online article written by Louise Milligan on February 26 about a rape allegation against a sitting Cabinet minister. Porter was not named in the article, but he alleged he was made identifiable to the public.

In a statement on Monday, the ABC said Christian Porter had “decided to discontinue his defamation action against the ABC and Louise Milligan”.

The ABC said all parties agreed not to pursue the defamation matter any further, and that no damages would be paid.

“The ABC stands by the importance of the article, which reported on matters of significant public interest, and the article remains online,” the ABC statement said.

On Twitter, Louise Milligan, the journalist at the centre of the defamation case, said she was proud of her work and continues to stand by it.

“Christian Porter has discontinued his case. The ABC will pay him no damages. I stand by my journalism & proud to work @4Corners & grateful to the ABC & our brilliant legal team for supporting public interest journalism,” Milligan wrote.

A hearing in the federal court was initially scheduled to go ahead on Monday but was abandoned amid negotiations between the two parties.  

The original article published by the ABC has been amended with a note from the editor, saying it did not intend to imply that Porter committed the criminal offences alleged. The note also says it stands by Louise Milligan’s investigative work.

“On 26 February 2021, the ABC published an article by Louise Milligan. That article was about a letter to the Prime Minister containing allegations against a senior cabinet minister. Although he was not named, the article was about the Attorney-General Christian Porter,” the editor’s note states.

The ABC 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. 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 ABC stands by our investigative and public interest journalism, which is always pursued in the interests of the Australian community.

“The ABC stands by Louise Milligan, one of Australia’s foremost and most awarded investigative journalists, and all our journalists in their independent and brave reporting on matters about which Australians have a right to be informed.”

After a week of intense media scrutiny following the publication of the article, Porter identified himself as the subject and strenuously denied the allegations that he had raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988.

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