<div>Allegations of $10,000 in massages, $361 steaks in network’s bid to woo Lehrmann</div>

Allegations of $10,000 in massages, $361 steaks in network’s bid to woo Lehrmann

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The I’s were dotted, the T’s crossed and it sat in a judge’s office waiting to be read out on Thursday.

But the high-stakes judgment in Bruce Lehrmann’s lawsuit against Network Ten won’t see the light of day just yet after an extraordinary bid to reopen the defamation case on eve of its ultimate ruling.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee on Tuesday night accepted Ten’s last-minute bid to admit fresh evidence.

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Ten’s lawyers allege the evidence suggests Mr Lehrmann, a former political staffer, abused a court process concerning text messages of Brittany Higgins, who he denies raping in a Parliament House office in 2019.

Justice Lee said the evidence could change the determination of the case and agreed with Ten that it went further than drawing Lehrmann’s credibility into question.

“This is clearly fresh evidence,” Justice Lee said.

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Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the Federal Court of Sydney.

The reopening of the case means the parties will return on Thursday and Friday to hear from new witness and former television producer Taylor Auerbach.

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Auerbach is due to tell how he came into possession of text messages between Higgins and her former boyfriend, provided in another court case involving Lehrmann.

In two affidavits, Auerbach claims Lehrmann received a number of perks from the network in a bid to win the interview, including more than $10,000 on massages, a round of golf and several meals including one where a $361 steak was ordered.

Auerbach’s claims are yet to be tested in court. Seven has denied the allegations.

“The claims in the affidavits are being presented unchallenged,” a Seven Network spokesperson said.

“Seven has never revealed its source or sources and has no intention of doing so. Seven notes Mr Lehrmann’s court testimony last year that he was not the source. Furthermore, Seven did not condone or authorise the alleged payments to Mr Lehrmann referred to in the affidavits.

“As has been previously reported, the person involved admitted to the misuse of a Seven corporate card and all unauthorised expenses were immediately reimbursed. Seven notes that these proceedings remain before the court.”

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The producer had worked to secure an exclusive interview with Mr Lehrmann for network rival Seven in 2023, later revealed in court to have involved a $100,000 payment for rent in Sydney.

The producer had worked to secure an exclusive interview with Lehrmann for network rival Seven in 2023, later revealed in court to have involved a $100,000 in-kind payment.

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Brittany Higgins.

Ten’s barrister, Dr Matthew Collins KC, on Tuesday suggested the “deeply personal exchanges” were provided by Lehrmann in breach of a longstanding legal rule known as the Harman undertaking.

That requires material provided under compulsory court order to only be used for the purpose for which it was provided.

Lehrmann, through his lawyer, urged Justice Lee to dismiss the last-minute application.

“This stuff is trivial, it’s just not relevant and to give leave to reopen on that sort of material would be inappropriate,” Matthew Richardson SC said.

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Justice Lee, who quipped during Tuesday’s urgent hearing that he thought he’d finished his work on this case last week, will hear the evidence from Thursday afternoon.

He remained hopeful of delivering his judgment next week but would confirm on Monday, he said.

The last-minute hearing came after Ten filed its bid to reopen the case on Easter Sunday.

The case, brought by Lehrmann, concerns a February 2021 report by journalist Lisa Wilkinson on The Project where Higgins was interviewed about her alleged rape in a Parliament House office in Canberra in March 2019.

Lehrmann is seeking extensive damages, saying those reports have destroyed his reputation.

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