More bombshell details emerge in Bruce Lehrmann case

Former Seven producer Taylor Auerbach appeared in court on Thursday to deliver last-minute evidence in Bruce Lehrmann's defamation case.

Former Seven producer Taylor Auerbach appeared in court on Thursday to deliver last-minute evidence in Bruce Lehrmann's defamation case. Photos: AAP

A former Seven Network producer who worked on an exclusive interview with Bruce Lehrmann has revealed more stunning allegations about his interactions with the former Liberal staffer.

Taylor Auerbach told the Federal Court on Thursday that Lehrmann had “purchased a bag of cocaine while we were dining” at Potts Point restaurant Franca on January 5, 2023.

Auerbach, who was a producer with the Spotlight program at the time,  said he caught a taxi with Lehrmann from the restaurant to the Meriton near World Square, where Lehrmann placed cocaine on a plate and started “googling a series of websites” to procure sex workers.

He claimed that Lehrmann “agreed to be in a Spotlight interview as long as we didn’t ask him what happened on the night in Canberra” with Brittany Higgins, who has accused him of sexual assault.

“I was taken aback,” Auerbach said, adding “it jumped out at me as quite concerning.” 

Auerbach said he told Lehrmann that he did not have the funds to pay for the sex workers and that Lehrmann replied that “he would pay” for the night. He said a plan was later made for Lehrmann to invoice Seven for “per diems” to be reimbursed.

Under cross examination, Lehrmann’s barrister Matthew Richardson SC put to Auerbach that there were no payments to cover expenses for the two nights his client spent in Sydney in January 2023.

“Those expenses were not reimbursed. There were no per diems paid. This didn’t happen,” Richardson said.

Auerbach disagreed, telling the court he “had conversations with Lehrmann after he was paid” in which he was told the payment had occurred.

He said he saw the invoice issued by Lehrmann, but conceded he did not see a record of the payment being received.

Resignation tendered

Auerbach acknowledged he was so “ashamed” of his behaviour after an earlier evening with Lehrmann that he tendered his resignation to Seven on November 26, 2022, after he charged thousands of dollars on a corporate credit card for expenses he said had “nothing to do with work”.

Auerbach subsequently claimed in an affidavit that those charges were for Thai masseuses for himself and Lehrmann, who went to his home in Elizabeth Bay early on November 26.

“It was a personal matter,” Auerbach said. “That doesn’t mean it wasn’t involving work.

“That morning was the worst morning of my life, probably, when I sent that email,” he added.

When Richardson put to Auerbach that it was “seriously dishonest” for him to use the corporate credit card for those expenses, Auerbach agreed it was “wrong”.

Auerbach said that rather than being disciplined by his managers at Seven over the incident, they “offered me a promotion … the following week”, as well as a pay rise.

Not proud

Under cross-examination he agreed he particularly hated former Spotlight producer Steve Jackson and said he “in part” blamed Jackson for his contract not being renewed at Seven in 2023.

Auerbach said he was “not proud” of the Spotlight interview with Lehrmann.

Justice Michael Lee had been poised to deliver his final judgment as Lehrmann sues Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over an interview with his alleged rape victim, Brittany Higgins.

But the court instead heard fresh evidence on Thursday from Auerbach about the Spotlight interview in which the 28-year-old denied the rape allegation.

Auerbach was also questioned about his alcohol consumption in late 2022.

Richardson put to him that he was consuming up to 20 standard drinks per day at the time.

“Your recollection of anything that happened in November or December 2022 is suspect,” he said, to which Auerbach disagreed.

It was during this period that Auerbach claims Lehrmann provided Seven with material from an electronic brief of evidence in his criminal case, including an AFP statement of facts, and an extract of Brittany Higgins’ text messages with her former partner.

“Mr Lehrmann did not supply the AFP statement of facts to you,” Richardson suggested.

Auerbach maintained that Lehmann was the source of the information.

Lehrmann has previously denied providing Seven material other than his exclusive Spotlight interview.

The former Liberal staffer gained access to private and personal texts through the abandoned criminal case against him, but the material was never entered into evidence.

Any Lehrmann leaked confidential texts from Higgins to Seven would be in breach of what is known as the Harman undertaking.

Auerbach claims Lehrmann supplied Seven with material on a paid golf trip to Tasmania, as well as at a property rented for him by the network in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Auerbach will return to the witness box on Friday.

Seven claim

In an affidavit provided to the court, Auerbach revealed he made a claim for psychological injury against Seven following the expiry of his two-year employment contract in August.

That claim was settled on confidential terms, he said.

Auerbach’s lawyer Rebekah Giles told the court on Thursday that the former producer endured bullying and anti-Semitism over a significant period at Seven.

She said he would need to produce further documents to comply with a subpoena, as she sought to narrow its initial scope.

“Our client would have to pull together for the first time all of the documents relating to his claim,” Giles said.

Lee said the documents might be relevant to an alleged abuse of process, as well as determining the credit of witnesses, including Lehrmann.

Seven has also been told to provide a subpoena explaining why some documents had been produced only recently, following further searches prompted by Auerbach’s affidavit.

He also said Seven paid tens of thousands of dollars to Lehrmann, including reimbursing him for “illicit drugs and prostitutes” and covering costs for expensive dinners, plane flights and accommodation.

Seven has denied Auerbach’s allegations, labelling them “false and misleading”.

Lehrmann rejects that anything sexual happened between himself and Higgins.

His criminal trial was derailed due to juror misconduct, with prosecutors dropping the charge over fears for Higgins’ mental health.

He is seeking substantial damages from Ten, claiming a report that aired on The Project in February 2021 ruined his reputation.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

-with AAP

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