Federal minister Christian Porter has discontinued his defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan, the broadcaster says.
“All parties have agreed to not pursue the matter any further,” the ABC said in a statement on Monday.
“No damages will be paid.
“The ABC stands by the importance of the article, which reported on matters of significant public interest, and the article remains online. ”
The February 26 article has since been updated with a statement confirming the “unnamed cabinet minister” subject to a woman’s rape allegation was Mr Porter but that the ABC “did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged”.
“The ABC did not contend that the serious accusations could be substantiated to the applicable legal standard – criminal or civil,” the editor’s note says.
“However, both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted.”
An ABC spokesman said the broadcaster had agreed to pay the costs of mediation with Mr Porter’s team, which was ordered last week.
In a lengthy statement after the decision emerged, Mr Porter blasted the ABC – describing Monday’s developments as a “humiliating backdown”.
“The ABC and Louise Milligan have been forced to say that the accusations in the article could not be proven to a civil standard or a criminal standard so the same people who were calling for some kind of civil hearing have now been forced to say that the accusations would not be proven to a civil standard,” he said.
“That is the point that they got to.
“They regret the outcome of that article. That is a humiliating backdown by the ABC.”
Mr Porter filed his claim for defamation on March 15, alleging the story was defamatory because it imputed he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 and that contributed to her taking her own life.
Milligan tweeted shortly after Monday’s decision was announced:
“I stand by my journalism & proud to work (Four Corners) & grateful to the ABC & our brilliant legal team for supporting public interest journalism.”
Mr Porter said he never believed the ABC would settle the case.
“I never thought that the ABC would settle. I never thought they would say they regret the outcome of the article. I never thought that they would concede that the accusations that were put in the article could never be proven, could not be proven to the criminal standard or the
civil standard,” he said.
“I did not think, frankly, there was any chance of them making those types of statements to settle this matter.”
He also maintained he would run again in his marginal Perth seat at the next federal election.
“I am running at the next election, committed at my seat for the people I represent, absolutely,” he said.
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