Treasurer Joe Hockey will give evidence at his defamation case against Fairfax Media when it comes to trial next year, the Federal Court has heard.
Mr Hockey is suing the media giant in the Federal Court over a series of stories in their flagship newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times in May under the headline “Treasurer for sale”.
The stories examined a political fundraising body in Mr Hockey’s electorate known as the North Sydney Forum, where members who paid an annual fee were able to meet with the treasurer at special events.
Mr Hockey’s lawyers claim the stories imputed the treasurer “accepted bribes paid to influence the decisions he made as treasurer” or that he was “prepared to accept bribes” or that he “corruptly solicited payments”.
Fairfax Media is defending the case, saying it was in the public interest to publish details about the forum.
The Federal Court on Tuesday heard Mr Hockey will give evidence at the judge-alone trial in March next year.
Fairfax Media’s barrister Sandy Dawson told the court the paper had sent 13 detailed questions to Mr Hockey’s press secretary three days before the story was published.
Among the questions were direct queries about Mr Hockey’s involvement in the North Sydney Forum and how many functions he had attended.
Mr Hockey’s press secretary replied with a general response, saying questions about the function and administration of the forum should be directed to them and that the treasurer’s diary was confidential.
Mr Dawson told the court Mr Hockey now claims he would have given very different answers had he known what the end article was going to look like.
Fairfax would like to know the treasurer’s answers to these 13 questions before the matter comes to trial, Mr Dawson said.
Meanwhile Mr Hockey’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC said they wanted further information from Sydney Morning Herald Editor Darren Goodsir about what information he had at the time he penned the headline ‘Treasurer for sale’ as it was “key” to the politician’s case.