Claims in the Weekend Australian that Liberal Senate leader Nick Minchin “swore at Malcolm Turnbull during an ugly public clash over leadership tensions” are “a lie and defamatory,” according to a memo circulated to Liberal Senators and MPs by Minchin.

Minchin has attached a letter to The Australian’s editor in chief, Chris Mitchell, in which he says:

The statement that I “swore” is untrue and indeed defamatory. I did not swear at Mr Turnbull… I am appalled that your newspaper has printed this false assertion as fact, without any qualification. Your newspaper has traditionally maintained much higher standards than this.

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Minchin requests that The Australian publishes a retraction, and provides a form of words.

His letter, however, does not contain an explicit threat of legal action. Which may be as well. Talk in top levels of the Liberals says that if the two former cabinet colleagues ended up as witnesses in court, their stories would differ.

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