Christian Porter’s legal bill rises, as judge denies request

A senate committee's heard there's no evidence of foreign donations toward Mr Porter's legal costs.

A senate committee's heard there's no evidence of foreign donations toward Mr Porter's legal costs. Photo: AAP

Christian Porter’s legal bill has grown after he was denied access to notes he claimed would assist a Federal Court appeal related to his settled defamation case.

The former attorney-general is appealing a decision to bar his chosen barrister from acting for him in his now-settled claim against the ABC.

In support of that appeal, Mr Porter had sought access to two sets of documents related to James Hooke.

Mr Hooke’s evidence about a November 2020 conference with friend Jo Dyer and barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC was relied upon by a court in May when barring the senior counsel from acting for Mr Porter.

But Justice John Middleton said, whether accidents or mistakes were made by lawyers in the May hearing, Mr Porter was seeking material that wasn’t before the primary judge.

Justice Middleton wasn’t persuaded that the documents sought assumed importance in the running of the appeal.

“If error there is, this will be demonstrated by reference to the record already before the court,” he said.

He set aside the notice to produce, with costs.

An appeal by Mr Porter is expected to be heard in February.

It claims Justice Tom Thawley erred when finding Ms Dyer had given Ms Chrysanthou confidential information potentially relevant to the MP’s defamation case against the ABC in the November 2020 meeting that included Mr Hooke.

That decision led the court to order Mr Porter and Ms Chrysanthou pay Ms Dyer’s legal costs, a bill that could exceed $500,000.

At a hearing last month, the MP’s barrister Callan O’Neill said the appeal was not just about his client’s legal bill but also a “matter of principle”.

The way the case had been conducted involved very important matters about how an application of this type should be made and heard in future, he said.

The hearing came the day after Mr Porter issued the notice to produce for an unredacted copy of one of Ms Dyer’s lawyers’ affidavits and notes of any meeting or conference between Mr Hooke and his lawyers related to evidence he gave in the May hearing.

Mr O’Neill submitted the veracity of Mr Hooke’s account in his second affidavit was central to the appeal grounds.

But Justice Middleton said the documents sought weren’t relevant to the appeal.

“On appeal, the primary judge was right or wrong on the material before him to allow the [second] affidavit to be read,” he said.

“It will undoubtedly be conducted on that basis.”

Mr Porter sued the ABC over its reporting of a woman’s historical claim that Mr Porter raped her when they were teenagers. The woman took her life in 2020.

The MP denies the rape claim, saying sex between the two never occurred.

He and the ABC settled in late May, with the public broadcaster agreeing to put an editor’s note alongside the online story, saying it regretted some readers misinterpreting the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter.

Mr Porter claimed that note amounted to a humiliating backdown, prompting the ABC to release another statement rejecting his claim it regretted the story.


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