Bruce Lehrmann claims two high-profile journalists were "recklessly indifferent to the truth" while "fighting" each other for the exclusive right to exploit false rape allegations for their own personal and professional gain.
The Federal Court on Thursday granted The Canberra Times access to documents filed by the former Liberal Party staffer in defamation proceedings against two media outlets.
Mr Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and News Life Media, the publisher of news.com.au, over their coverage of allegations he raped Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019.
The 27-year-old, who has always denied sexually assaulting his ex-colleague in the office of Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court last October.
Mr Lehrmann, who launched the defamation proceedings on Tuesday, is now pursuing the two media companies in search of damages and other remedies.
His lawsuits name Ten presenter Lisa Wilkinson and news.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden, who broke the news of Ms Higgins' allegations in February 2021, as respondents alongside their employers.
Documents filed in the case against Network Ten complain the broadcaster defamed Mr Lehrmann on The Project, a program on which Ms Wilkinson interviewed Ms Higgins.
The interview was also published on the network's 10Play website and YouTube channel.
Mr Lehrmann claims it conveyed four defamatory imputations about him, including that he raped Ms Higgins while she cried and told him to stop, that he bruised her leg in the process, and that he ultimately left her in Senator Reynolds' office in a state of undress.
While Network Ten did not name Mr Lehrmann at this stage of its coverage, in February 2021, he contends that its publications "invited readers to speculate about the identity of the person accused by Ms Higgins of sexually assaulting her".
His lawyers contend that people were able to figure out his identity from the broadcast, and provide links to online publications, including Tweets, in which people named him.
The case against News Life Media alleges the same defamatory imputations, and a claim the initial news.com.au coverage also implied Mr Lehrmann had signed Ms Higgins, who was drunk and did not have her security pass, into Parliament House so he could rape her.
Again, Mr Lehrmann alleges he was identifiable despite not being named, and that his family, friends, acquaintances and people who worked at Parliament House could deduce from Ms Maiden's initial coverage that he was the person Ms Higgins had accused of rape.
It was not until Mr Lehrmann was summonsed to face a rape charge six months after the initial coverage, his lawyers say, that his name was published by mainstream media.
Mr Lehrmann also claims both media companies, and the two journalists, intended to "injure" him by presenting Ms Higgins' allegations in an "over-sensationalised" manner.
Court documents say he was not given a reasonable opportunity to respond, and the hurt and harm occasioned by the publications in question was aggravated by his knowledge that "the respondents were recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity of the imputations".
MORE A.C.T. COURT AND CRIME NEWS:
Mr Lehrmann also cites the evidence Ms Higgins gave during his aborted trial, when she said Ms Wilkinson and Ms Maiden were "fighting" with each other over the exclusive publication of her sexual assault claims "for the purpose of winning a Walkley award".
He alleges it can therefore be inferred both journalists were "seeking to exploit the false allegations of sexual assault as made by Ms Higgins for [their] own personal and professional gain".
The respondents are yet to file defences to Mr Lehrmann's claims.
The matter will next be before Justice Michael Lee for a case management hearing in March.
For Mr Lehrmann to be successful in his claims, he will need the Federal Court to extend the 12-month limitation period to bring defamation action given the coverage at the centre of the case was published nearly two years ago.