Wilkinson begged Ten to say it approved Logies speech

Lawyers and top executives at Network Ten approved a speech by Lisa Wilkinson at the 2022 Logies which resulted in the rape trial of Bruce Lehrmann being delayed, a court has heard.

During a bitter media fallout that followed, Wilkinson said Ten “refused” to make public it had cleared the speech despite her "begging them" to do so.

The journalist said she was "trashed" by the media and accused of recklessly derailing the trial intended to test allegations Lehrmann raped co-staffer Brittany Higgins in a Parliament House office.

Lisa Wilkinson with lawyers
Wilkinson (centre) said she was "trashed" by the media and accused of derailing the Lehrmann trial.

Wilkinson told a Federal Court defamation hearing on Tuesday the speech had been pre-approved by Ten’s senior legal counsel, Tasha Smithies, and viewed by the broadcaster's boss, Beverley McGarvey, and head of communications, Catherine Donovan.

"The media believed that I had gotten up on that stage and given a speech pretty much off the top of my head," she said.

"That was completely incorrect.

"(Ten) had asked me to make that speech, they had been involved in legalling that speech right up until ... the afternoon of the Logies."

The court also heard former ACT director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold did not warn Wilkinson or Ten lawyers of risks involved with the speech before its delivery, as he later claimed.

Mr Drumgold in May told an inquiry he warned Wilkinson the speech carried risks of delaying Lehrmann's impending trial but he conceded he could have done so more directly.

Wilkinson and Smithies both said on Tuesday that Mr Drumgold gave no such warning.

Shane Drumgold (file image)
Wilkinson and Ten's legal counsel both said Shane Drumgold gave no warning before the Logies speech.

Ten put out a public statement at the time of the media fallout describing the reporting on Wilkinson as "inaccurate and unfair”, adding it continued to fully support her.

The veteran journalist and presenter said she understood her employer's statement to have been "very legally considered".

Ms Smithies, who is the most senior litigation counsel at Ten, confirmed during Tuesday's hearing that she viewed the Logies speech and advised Wilkinson it was appropriate.

Wilkinson's barrister Michael Elliott SC grilled the Ten lawyer on her role in approving the speech, accusing her of "playing with words" and trying to protect herself from embarrassment.

Ms Smithies said she did not believe the advice she gave Wilkinson exposed her to public criticism.

“You knew what the press was saying, to the effect that Ms Wilkinson was acting recklessly because she had acted against warnings, was not true?" Mr Elliott asked.

“Yes," Ms Smithies replied.

She said one of the motivations for Ten not revealing it gave approval of Wilkinson's speech was the belief doing so could inflame the chances of it or her being charged with contempt of court.

Bruce Lehrmann outside court
Bruce Lehrmann is suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project.

The Logies speech resulted in the ACT Supreme Court proceedings being postponed to protect Lehrmann's right to a fair trial over allegations he raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.

Lehrmann is suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project that aired Ms Higgins' claims.

Wilkinson has launched a cross-claim against the broadcaster to recoup legal costs after retaining her own legal representation, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lisa  Wilkinson outside court
Wilkinson said Ten was conflicted representing her in the defamation proceedings.

The journalist was cross-examined by Ten lawyer Robert Dick SC on Tuesday, when he put to her that her motivation for retaining a separate lawyer was to protect or advance her public image.

"It was becoming very apparent to me that Channel 10 ... (was) conflicted when it came to representing me in these defamation proceedings," Wilkinson replied.

She said she was not informed by Ten about the legal action against them and had to find out through the media.

"I found it deeply unsatisfactory," Wilkinson said.

Lehrmann has always denied any sexual contact occurred with Ms Higgins. His criminal trial was derailed by juror misconduct.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store