Attorney-General Christian Porter has launched defamation action in the Federal Court against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan.
Mr Porter is suing the public broadcaster for publishing “false accusations” against him in an online story that claimed he was the subject of historical rape allegations.
The legal action is also aimed at a report aired in November that alleged he was a misogynist and sexist.
In a statement released on Monday, lawyers accused the ABC of running a “trial by media” and Milligan of acting with malice, damaging Mr Porter’s reputation.
“If the ABC and Ms Milligan wish to argue the truth of the allegations, they can do so in these proceedings,” lawyer Rebekah Giles said.
“Under the Defamation Act it is open for the ABC and Ms Milligan to plead truth in their defence to this action and prove the allegations to the lower civil standard.”
The ABC has said it will defend the action.
Meanwhile, more than 80,000 people have signed a petition calling for Mr Porter to be suspended as Attorney-General over the rape allegations he has denied.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also remains under sustained pressure as he continues to insist police have dealt with the historical allegations and no further action is required.
Mr Porter has taken indefinite mental health leave but Mr Morrison is adamant he will be welcomed back into cabinet.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham rejected suggestions the government was out of touch with community expectations.
“I think Australians do expect that proper legal processes should be followed in relation to addressing such allegations,” he told ABC radio.
“Those legal processes have been deployed by the NSW Police as they’ve outlined. Of course, there are also legal processes in relation to the tragic death [of the woman involved] and those processes remain under way in South Australia, and we should let them run their course.”
Mr Porter’s former wife was among thousands of West Australians to march across Perth on Sunday in protest against gender discrimination and violence.
An estimated 100,000 people are expected to attend more than 40 marches around the country, which coincides with the first day of a fortnight of parliamentary sittings in Canberra.
He reiterated Mr Morrison needed to deal with a specific allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Lisa Wilkinson, co-host of Channel 10’s The Project, will speak at the Canberra event and deliver a message from Brittany Higgins, who spoke out about her alleged rape by fellow Liberal staffer at Parliament House in 2019.
- For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 131 114