Peter Dutton is expected to take the virtual witness stand in the Federal Court next month as the one and only witness in his defamation case against a refugee activist.
The minister for defence is suing Shane Bazzi over a since-deleted tweet that the long-time campaigner sent in February this year labelling Mr Dutton a “rape apologist”.
At a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday, Justice Richard White urged the two men to try – again – to settle their differences ahead of the looming trial date of October 6.
The case still seemed to be capable of settlement, despite a failed mediation in August, the judge said.
He warned the barristers representing Mr Dutton and Mr Bazzi he would ask for an assurance they had done their best to negotiate a settlement and were satisfied it could not be done.
Camera IconPeter Dutton has been urged to try and settle his defamation case against a refugee activist. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia
The court heard the short trial, set down for three days, will hear evidence from just one witness: Mr Dutton himself.
It will also occur over Microsoft Teams due to Covid-19 border restrictions.
Mr Dutton is suing over a February 25, 2021, tweet in which Mr Bazzi wrote “Peter Dutton is a rape apologist” with a link to a 2019 Guardian Australia article about the then-minister for immigration’s comments regarding refugee and asylum seeker women detained on Nauru attempting to secure medical transfers to Australia.
“Some people are trying it on,” Mr Dutton said at the time. “Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru.”
Mr Bazzi is arguing defences of honest opinion and qualified privilege, which requires someone to have acted reasonably in publishing information in the public interest.
He raised more than $150,000 in a public appeal to fund his defence.
Greens senator Larissa Waters issued a public apology to Mr Dutton in March over a similar statement.
On Tuesday, the Queensland MP’s barrister Nick Ferrett QC asked for permission to amend the initial claim in the matter, saying he was not seeking to substantively expand the case.
Mr Bazzi’s barrister Richard Potter said he needed more time to consider the request.
The proposed amendments related to tweets Mr Dutton claims aggravate the alleged defamation, the court heard.
The matter returns to court on Thursday.Internet Explorer Channel Network