Federal minister Christian Porter can be reasonably suspected of raping a 16-year-old girl, the ABC argues in a high-stakes defamation case.
Mr Porter in turn claims the national broadcaster and journalist Louise Milligan led a determined campaign against him. He says they knew his tenure as attorney-general would end as a result of an article reporting that rape allegations had been sent to the prime minister.
The claims are contained in the ABC's defence to the defamation claim and Mr Porter's reply. Redacted versions of both documents were published by the Federal Court on Friday.
The now-industry, science and technology minister launched defamation action in March against the ABC and Ms Milligan for claiming he was linked to a historical rape allegation, which he says are "false accusations".
The woman at the centre of the allegations died in June 2020.
Mr Porter denies the rape occurred.
Several of the claims raised by Mr Porter will be defended as true by the ABC.
It includes that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting he brutally and anally raped a 16-year-old, and reasonable grounds for suspicion the rape contributed to her suicide.
But the broadcaster won't try to prove that Mr Porter actually raped the girl.
Some details of the ABC's case have been withheld from the public after Mr Porter asked they be suppressed.
Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot will decide if those details, along with information about how the ABC conducted its investigation, can be published when she hears arguments next Friday.
The ABC vehemently opposed even the temporary redaction of the details in court on Friday, saying they effectively contained the substance of the defence case.
As well as the truth defence, the ABC is also relying on the constitutional implied freedom of political communication.
They say the article "went to the very heart" of the freedom.
Scott Morrison's actions in referring the matter to the police, who did not investigate it at the time, meant there was an "urgent and compelling need" to publish the article as the public would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to consider the allegations.
The ABC also argues that if a government minister sues for defamation, they have to prove the publication was unreasonable.
It says it acted reasonably in reporting information that readers had a public interest in receiving.
Mr Porter accuses the national broadcaster and Ms Milligan of acting with malice, including "reckless indifference amounting to wilful blindness" to the truth of the claim he'd raped the girl.
If he establishes malice, a number of the ABC's defences therefore fail.
A number of tweets issued by Ms Milligan, 4 Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour and other ABC figures like Annabel Crabb are excerpted in the reply to demonstrate malice.
Ms Milligan tried to speak to the alleged victim before her death but was rebuffed and didn't get her parents' consent to publish their daughter's claims, the reply argues.
Mr Porter also complains that he was not approached for comment before the story was published, that Ms Milligan quoted selectively from a dossier outlining the woman's claims, and that the ABC ran commentary calling for an inquiry into the allegations.
He says the reporter and her employer were determined to harm him, irrespective of the "self-evident impropriety".
Mr Porter says the 4 Corners team was desperate to publish the allegation after their "Inside the Canberra Bubble" episode ran in November without including it.
He claims one producer said: "One way or the other, we are going to get that allegation out. This is not over."
The ABC also says that Mr Porter wasn't identified in the article.
The trial could last up to six weeks with the defence calling up to 15 witnesses, the Federal Court was told on Friday.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Australian Associated Press