Higgins, Sharaz 'planned' political attack, court told

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds intends to claim that Brittany Higgins and her now fiance David Sharaz colluded with Lisa Wilkinson and a Network 10 producer to politically attack her, if her defamation cases against the couple go to trial.

The former defence minister, who plans to retire from politics at the next election, is suing both her former political staffer and Mr Sharaz over a series of social media posts that she says have damaged her reputation.

Lawyers for the parties appeared in the Western Australian Supreme Court on Wednesday, after a closed-door mediation hearing failed last month, as the matters edged closer to trial.

Linda Reynolds in March.
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds is suing both Brittany HIggins and her fiance David Sharaz.

They wrangled over how the prospective trials should be run, with Senator Reynolds' lawyer Martin Bennett saying they were so "intertwined" they should be partially merged to prevent duplication and save the parties money.

This includes potentially having witnesses common to both cases appear only once and running the trials together, with Mr Sharaz's case starting first but no firm decisions were reached and mediation could be restarted.

"This is two major pieces of litigation listed for a lengthy period of time between three individuals, these are not media organisations," Mr Bennett told the court.

Outside the court, Mr Bennett said the defamation action was costing 58-year-old Senator Reynolds "a fortune".

"My client mortgaged her home at her age to pay for legal fees to do this to try to vindicate her reputation," he said.

"It costs individuals a lot of money to do this."

Brittany Higgins
Brittany Higgins in Perth at the earlier mediation session in March.

In court, Mr Bennett read out examples of duplication in Ms Higgins' and Mr Sharaz's court documents, while referring to the West Australian senator's claim for aggravated damages.

He said it included details about a plan allegedly initiated by Mr Sharaz and Ms Higgins, with help from Network Ten star Ms Wilkinson and producer Angus Llewellyn "to attack my client".

Mr Bennett also said that "during the period of time Ms Higgins was in Perth working on the plaintiff's federal election campaign (in 2019), she felt isolated and was in a state of depression," as he cited another example of overlap between the two cases.

Senator Reynolds would call witnesses to rebut that claim, he said.

Mr Bennett said Ms Wilkinson and Mr Llewellyn could be called as witnesses and that audio of a five-hour meeting, in which they allegedly discussed a plan with Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz, had been subpoenaed.

In Ms Higgins' interview with Ms Wilkinson, aired on Ten's The Project in February 2021, she claimed another Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann had raped her in Senator Reynold's Parliament House office in 2019. Lehrmann has consistently denied that allegation.

David Sharaz
David Sharaz in Perth at the earlier mediation session in March.

Senator Reynolds is also attempting to access a transcript from Lehrmann’s defamation battle with Ten and Ms Wilkinson in the Federal Court in Sydney.

Mr Bennett also said Ms Higgins had published a social media post saying "I won't stay silent so you can stay comfortable" amid last month's mediation, adding that it would bolster Senator Reynold's claim for aggravated damages.

Mr Bennett said Senator Reynolds was likely to call 17 to 20 witnesses if the trial goes ahead, which was previously provisionally listed for six weeks from July 24.

The matter will return to court May 24.

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