Emma Husar and Buzzfeed are “very close” to settling the former federal MP’s defamation case against the online publisher which she claims portrayed her as “a slut” and “sexually perverted”.
The lawsuit was listed for a case management hearing in the federal court on Friday when Justice Steven Rares interrupted another matter to say he had “a settlement” to proceed with.
However Buzzfeed’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said the parties were “very close” to settling the case but there was one outstanding issue on which he was awaiting instructions from New York.
Husar’s lawyer, Sandy Dawson SC, said he was equally hopeful the matter would be resolved, telling the judge the issue only involved “the wording of a clause rather than anything more substantive”.
The former western-Sydney MP is suing BuzzFeed Australia, its American parent company BuzzFeed Inc and journalist Alice Workman.
Husar said she was defamed in an article, a tweet and a Facebook post in August outlining misconduct allegations made against her and examined as part of a confidential internal Labor investigation.
The ALP inquiry did not find evidence to support claims of sexual harassment or that she’d flashed another federal MP.
Husar claims the publications convey a number of false and defamatory meanings about her including that she is a “slut who boasts about who she has had sex with, which includes other members of parliament and members of her staff”.
BuzzFeed has said the publications did not suggest Husar was a slut.
It maintained a truth defence to other allegations including that Husar is “sexually perverted” and “engaged in inappropriate sexualised behaviour toward her staff”.
The judge previously encouraged the parties to consider mediation, warning in February they faced a complicated and expensive case that could cause “a whole lot of collateral damage”.
They then took part in mediation and on Friday Justice Rares asked if they would like the mediator to become involved again if they were so close to settlement.
“It would be a great shame not to be able to achieve that,” he said, adding it was obviously desirable for the parties to work towards resolution.
McClintock said the parties did not require the mediator, while Dawson asked if it was possible to get a hearing date – for at least four weeks – just in case it was needed.
Rares again urged settlement, noting four weeks with an uncertain outcome “makes commercial resolution sensible”.
The case will come back before him on 29 July.