Christian Porter has discontinued his defamation case against the ABC and reporter Louise Milligan for coverage of historical rape allegations. For the friends of Kate, Porter’s alleged victim, the ending is bittersweet.
Although the ABC won’t have to spend truckloads of finite resources defending itself, Kate’s friends and supporters won’t have to defend her name against harsh lawyers, and Porter won’t have to crowdfund legal fees, it also means the information the ABC has to support its truth defence stays secret while an independent inquiry into his suitability to remain in Parliament remains unannounced.
Early into the defamation case, the public was already being robbed of detail. Most of the ABC’s 37-page defence was redacted at Porter’s lawyers’ request. They also tried to block a key affidavit from Macquarie Bank managing director James Hooke and lost — although the affidavit has still not been released. Other media organisations are pursuing a legal case to get the defence released.
Kate’s childhood friend and former Liberal candidate Jeremy Samuel tells Crikey he believes the public deserves to know what case the ABC would have put forward.
“The public deserves to know the full story,” he said. “It’s kind of bittersweet because it means that [Porter’s] managed to suppress that information.”
Milligan says Porter was first to propose a settlement. In contrast, Porter called the action a “humiliating backdown” by the ABC.
The ABC will cover the costs of mediation and have added two paragraphs to its story, including: “The ABC did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged.”
Courses of action
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously said the defamation heading was the “appropriate inquiry” to assess the allegations and Porter’s suitability to keep his role.
Now the case has been discontinued, Morrison remains silent on whether an independent inquiry into the allegations will be held, for which Kate’s friends have long advocated.
March4Justice ralliers also presented a petition for an independent inquiry, and the Greens have proposed an independent inquiry into Porter’s fitness to be a minister.
The South Australian coroner is investigating Kate’s death and that may lead to a public coronial inquest. Kate took her life in June last year.
Kate’s 1988 debate teammate and friend Ian Wilkins tells Crikey the defamation saga had “resolved nothing”.
“For the people who cared about Kate when she was alive, the withdrawal by the accused man of his defamation case against the ABC resolves nothing as to the question of justice for Kate,” he said.
“In this very difficult situation, justice must begin with a full, proper and thorough inquiry into the truth regarding Kate’s allegations.”
Instead the defamation suit shut down dialogue around the allegations, hindered the prospect of an inquiry and cost taxpayers a tidy sum to learn nothing new about our elected official.
If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.