Controversial politician Andrew Laming has lodged documents with the federal court in a defamation action against ABC journalist Louise Milligan over tweets that Laming argues characterised taking an innocent photo of a person in the workplace as ‘upskirting’.
Rebekah Giles, the lawyer who represented Christian Porter in his recent defamation case against Milligan (which did not proceed to trial), is also representing Laming in this matter.
Laming’s case alleges that a series of statements Milligan made on Twitter in March ‘gravely injured’ his ‘character and reputation’. The investigative journalist’s tweets concerned a 2019 photograph that Laming took of a landscaping business employee named Crystal White in Brisbane.
White accused Laming of taking her photograph while she was bent over in the course of her work, exposing the top of her underwear beneath her denim shorts. A Queensland police investigation into the woman’s formal complaint cleared Laming over the incident in April of this year.
Police had interviewed a number of people over the alleged incident but determined there was no evidence to establish that a criminal offence had occurred.
Laming denied any wrongdoing in taking the photograph of White and claimed during an interview with ABC Radio that the photo was a ‘completely dignified’ picture of a person ‘kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasn’t going to fit in the fridge’.
Earlier this year Milliagan removed her original tweets about Laming’s photograph of White and, in June, published a statement declaring that the photo was not an ‘upskirt’ photo. She also detailed the MP’s denials of the matter and shared a link to an article that stated the politician would not be charged by police over the incident.
“Initial impressions circulated widely that this was an upskirt photo were incorrect because the woman was wearing shorts and she was alleging her underwear could be seen from the top of the shorts,” Milligan wrote at the time.
Laming’s lawyers took particular issue with the journalist’s decision not to apoligise to the MP and have described Milligan’s statement as ‘self-serving’.
The Guardian suggested that Labor senator Kristina Keneally has deleted four tweets about Laming after having received a letter of concern from his lawyer.
It is also reported that Laming has garnered apologies from other journalists and politicians who either responded to Milligan’s 28 March posts on Twitter or wrote about the allegations, including Greens senator Sarah-Hanson Young, Labor senator Murray Watt and News Corp journalist Eliza Barr.
According to The Guardian, Liberal Senator James McGrath has also been writing to ABC Chair Ita Buturose, pressing her over the broadcaster’s decision to foot Milligan’s legal costs since Laming’s action against the journalist is over a series of tweets that she did not make in her work capacity.