‘When you sign me’: behind Lehrmann’s Seven interview

Taylor Auerbach claims Bruce Lehrmann promised access to confidential info from his aborted trial.

Taylor Auerbach claims Bruce Lehrmann promised access to confidential info from his aborted trial. Photo: AAP

A former Seven producer claims he discussed Bruce Lehrmann being paid in the order of $200,000 to appear in an exclusive, tell-all interview to respond to allegations he raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.

Taylor Auerbach told a defamation trial the talks came during a months-long courting process for the Spotlight program, which culminated in ex-Liberal staffer Lehrmann agreeing to appear as well as allegedly leaking reams of confidential material.

Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over an interview with Higgins about the rape allegations.

Auerbach told the Federal Court on Friday that he met Lehrmann’s representative John MacGowan in October 2022, to discuss an exclusive interview with Seven Network’s flagship current affairs program.

“I was in Canberra for the criminal trial between Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins,” the former TV producer said.

“We talked about the fact that Mr Lehrmann had many legal fees and needed to be compensated.”

MacGowan said they had audio of Higgins speaking with Wilkinson, “being coached” and “talking to AFP about how she could turn on and off the waterworks”, Auerbach said.

Rather than pay Lehrmann directly, they discussed paying the money into a trust under a different name, the court was told.

Auerbach said in agreeing to the interview two days later, Lehrmann told him he was glad the producer “wasn’t sitting with the rest of the feminazis in the press pack”.

Channel Seven also paid for expensive dinners, hotels, massages and a golf trip for Lehrmann, as well as renting him a house in Sydney’s Randwick, according to an affidavit from Auerbach.

Lehrmann on one occasion requested accommodation with a jacuzzi, the document said.

One invoice paid by Seven to Lehrmann for $750 was understood by Auerbach to cover “Mr Lehrmann’s expenditure on cocaine and prostitutes”.

“He indicated to me he needed to replenish his bank account after the bender,” the ex-Seven producer told the court.

Since Lehrmann was not an employee of Seven, the payment was listed under “pre-production expenses” rather than “per diem” as was previously discussed, the court heard.

“We had to come up with another category that finance would allow through the system,” Auerbach said.

lehrmann auerbach texts

Texts involving ex-producer Taylor Auerbach have been tendered in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case. Source: AAP

He earlier told the trial Lehrmann leaked text messages extracted by police from Higgins’ phone.

The messages came from a document compiled ahead of the ex-Liberal staffer’s trial for allegedly raping Higgins in Parliament House in 2019, the court heard.

In an affidavit, Auerbach said he was also sent messages between Higgins and journalist Peter Fitzsimmons (Wikinson’s husband), which made up part of the confidential police file.

Auerbach said he was sent photographs of a document on a laptop showing screenshots of text messages between the pair.

He claimed the photographs were taken by Spotlight executive producer Mark Llewellyn, whose image he could recognise reflected on the laptop screen.

According to Auerbach, the trio also had dinner at Sydney restaurant Spice Temple in March 2023, during which Llewellyn asked Lehrmann if he had documents for the criminal proceedings, to which Lehrmann said that he did.

Lehrmann accompanied the men to Seven’s office at Eveleigh, where he made copies of some of an estimated 500 pages of double-sided documents from the criminal case, according to Auerbach.

“I viewed some of the documents that were being copied and could see that they were exhibits from the applicant’s criminal proceedings,” Auerbach said in his affidavit.

“I saw, by way of example, Ms Higgins’ text messages.”

According to Auerbach, Lehrmann told him several times that night he would get access only to the documents “when you sign me”.

Lehrmann rejects that anything sexual happened between himself and Higgins.

His 2022 criminal trial in the ACT was derailed due to juror misconduct, with prosecutors dropping the charges against him over fears for Higgins’ mental health.

He has also denied providing Seven with any information for the Spotlight item, besides his interview.

Seven has also broadly denied Auerbach’s allegations, labelling them “false and misleading” and adding that it did not reveal journalists’ sources.


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