Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming threatens 10 MPs and journalists with legal action Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content

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By Lisa Visentin

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming has threatened defamation action against at least ten journalists and politicians and is suing ABC journalist Louise Milligan, over tweets and comments that alleged he had taken an “upskirting” photo of a woman who was bending over.

At least one person, News Corp reporter Eliza Barr, has reimbursed Dr Laming for his legal costs as well as issuing an apology on Twitter after receiving a defamation concerns notice from his lawyer Rebekah Giles.

Ms Giles said Barr had paid $1,500 but it is unclear whether other journalists and politicians have also made payments to Dr Laming. Barr declined to comment.

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming is suing ABC journalist Louise Milligan, and has threatened defamation action against other journalists and politicians, over comments about a photo he had taken of a woman restocking a fridge.

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming is suing ABC journalist Louise Milligan, and has threatened defamation action against other journalists and politicians, over comments about a photo he had taken of a woman restocking a fridge.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Dr Laming, who will quit politics at the next election after allegations emerged that he harassed two women online, took action over the tweets after Queensland police in April cleared him of any criminal offence over a photo he had taken of Brisbane woman Crystal White while she stocked a fridge at a landscaping business in 2019.

Ms White, who was wearing shorts at the time, has previously told Nine News Queensland the photograph was “really inappropriate” and she was bending over when Dr Laming took it. He has disputed this, claiming the photo was “completely dignified” and showed her in a kneeling position.

In defamation proceedings filed in the Federal Court on Sunday, Dr Laming alleged four since-deleted tweets by Milligan written on March 28 carried defamatory imputations. These included that he admitted to a criminal offence of taking a photo of a woman’s underwear under her skirt without consent, and that he should “leave Parliament immediately and not wait until the next election”.

The ABC confirmed that it would cover Milligan’s legal costs and had retained legal firm Bird & Bird to handle the case, but declined to comment further.

ABC journalist Louise Milligan is being sued by Federal Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming

ABC journalist Louise Milligan is being sued by Federal Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming

“The ABC does not comment on legal matters,” an ABC spokesman said.

Dr Laming’s statement of claim alleged Milligan had not apologised “either privately or publicly” and rejected her attempts to clarify her comments in another tweet on June 17 as “self-serving”.

Milligan’s clarifying tweet was posted with a note saying “attached are some things that should be known about Dr Andrew Laming” and linked to an ABC article from April reporting that Dr Laming had not been charged, which she urged her followers to read.

“In a broader Twitter discussion about gender and politics a couple of months ago, I did not include Dr Laming’s denials, nor the decision by Queensland police not to proceed. I was not reporting on the matter, but nonetheless, am committed as ever to the full story being known,” Milligan tweeted.

Liberal Senator James McGrath, a vocal critic of the ABC, on Monday tweeted a letter he had written to ABC chair Ita Buttrose questioning why the broadcaster was paying Milligan’s legal fees.

“As the action relates to tweets issued by Ms Milligan not in a work capacity (as Ms Milligan has admitted) how can you justify this to the taxpayer? I note that Dr Laming is personally paying for his legal costs,” Senator McGrath tweeted.

It is the second defamation case Ms Giles has acted in on behalf of Liberal MPs against Milligan this year. She representing Industry Minister Christian Porter in his litigation against Milligan over her reporting of alleged historical rape allegation him, which he denies. The parties settled last month, with the ABC agreeing to pay $100,000 for Mr Porter’s mediation costs. But the broadcaster did not apologise and the article remains on the ABC website with an editor’s note.

The legal blitz by Dr Laming’s lawyers has prompted a flurry of written retractions and apologies, issued over Twitter in recent weeks, including from Labor Senator Murray Watt, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, former independent Senator Derryn Hinch, Queensland Labor MP Don Brown, and Chaser-owned website The Shot.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally deleted a tweet after she received a concerns notice from Ms Giles, but has not apologised publicly.

Journalist and author Georgie Dent, represented by Marque Lawyers partner Michael Bradley, has also deleted a post but not apologised since being contacted by Ms Giles.

Nine, which owns this masthead, has also received concerns notice from Dr Laming’s lawyers in connection with its reporting of the allegations against him, but no apology has been issued.

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