Cocaine and sex worker allegations levelled at Lehrmann

A former Seven Network producer appointed to "babysit" Bruce Lehrmann has alleged in court he witnessed him purchase cocaine and attempt to order sex workers to a Sydney hotel.

Former Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach told the Federal Court on Thursday he was tasked with building trust and rapport with the 28-year-old ex-Liberal staffer, who was a prospective interview subject.

Justice Michael Lee had been poised to deliver his final judgment on Lehrmann's defamation action against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a 2021 interview with fellow ex-staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged he raped her in a Parliament House office in 2019.

Instead, the court began hearing fresh evidence from Mr Auerbach about the lead-up to the 2023 Spotlight interview, during which Lehrmann denied raping Ms Higgins. - as he always has. 

Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the Federal Court of Australia
Taylor Auerbach claims he acted as Bruce Lehrmann's (centre) "babysitter" ahead of the interview.

“I had been reappointed to be his babysitter, minder, looking after him," Mr Auerbach told the court.

Mr Auerbach claimed he took a taxi with Lehrmann, who was not in court on Thursday, from Franca Brasserie in Potts Point in Sydney's inner-east to a Meriton Hotel in the city centre.

"Mr Lehrmann had over dinner purchased a bag of cocaine while we were dining at Franca," he told the court.

"When we got upstairs to the room he pulled that out and started to put it on a plate and then started talking to me about a prospective Spotlight story and his desire to order prostitutes to the Meriton that night."

The court heard Mr Auerbach told Lehrmann that he did not have the means to pay for sex workers and that the potential interviewee should fund them himself.

He further claimed Seven later reimbursed Lehrmann, who he maintained issued an invoice to the network, although Mr Auerbach also admitted he didn't sight any receipts. 

A Seven spokesman later said allegations Lehrmann issued such invoices to the network were "completely false".

In a text to his then-boss, Steve Jackson, Mr Auerbach said he raised concerns about Lehrmann's behaviour.

"I told him that Bruce was on the warpath again and that it was no anomaly," Mr Auerbach said.

Taylor Auerbach leaves court on Thursday.
Taylor Auerbach told the court he raised his concerns with his boss at the Spotlight program.

"I think I used the words, 'this is f***ed'."

In his testimony, Mr Auerbach also alleged Lehrmann leaked confidential text messages from Ms Higgins' mobile to Seven in breach of what is known as the Harman undertaking.

Lehrmann, he said, had access to the private and personal texts through an earlier, abandoned criminal case against him, but the material was not tendered into evidence.

The Harman undertaking holds that untendered evidence from an abandoned criminal case can't be used for other purposes.

Lawyer for Lehrmann, Matthew Richardson SC, put to Mr Auerbach that he was being untruthful in his account, which the former Seven producer denied.

“I want to suggest to you ... that you are here today to do as much damage to your former employer and former colleagues as you possibly can," Mr Richardson said.

The court was shown footage of Mr Auerbach destroying golf clubs belonging to his former boss, Mr Jackson, whom he admitted to hating.

Mr Auerbach also claimed in the days after the Spotlight program went to air - in two episodes on June 4 and August 13 - he was told by a regular external lawyer for Seven that "Ten and Lisa are not very happy about the broadcast and might come after us".

Journalist Lisa Wilkinson arrives at Federal Court
Lisa Wilkinson was in court to hear what Taylor Auerbach had to say.

“I understood that this meant that I should delete any materials that could be damaging for Seven," Mr Auerbach said in his affidavit that was read to the court.

"I followed this direction and permanently deleted anything that I could find on my computer and phone at the time.” 

Mr Auerbach made a claim for psychological injury against Seven following the expiration of his two-year employment contract in August, he told the court in the affidavit.

That claim was settled on confidential terms, he said.

Mr Auerbach endured bullying and anti-Semitism over a significant period at Seven, his lawyer Rebekah Giles told the court.

Seven has denied Mr Auerbach's allegations, labelling them "false and misleading".

Lehrmann rejects that anything sexual happened between himself and Ms Higgins.

His 2022 criminal trial in the ACT was derailed due to juror misconduct, with prosecutors dropping the charges against him over fears for Ms Higgins' mental health.

He is seeking substantial damages from Ten, claiming the report that aired on The Project in February 2021 ruined his reputation.

The judgment in the defamation case could be handed down early next week.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

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