A judge has encouraged federal MP Emma Husar and BuzzFeed to consider mediation in their defamation battle, warning they face a complicated and expensive case that could cause "a whole lot of collateral damage".
Justice Steven Rares made the suggestion in the Federal Court on Friday after delivering a setback to BuzzFeed Australia, with the news site having parts of its defence struck out.
The judge said the case would be very expensive and complicated, and "there may be better ways of resolving this dispute".
"Someone's going to win, and someone's going to lose ... and a whole lot of collateral damage might be done to a whole lot of people," he said.
Ms Husar has taken defamation action against BuzzFeed Australia, its American parent company BuzzFeed Inc and journalist Alice Workman.
The western Sydney MP says she was defamed in an article, a tweet and Facebook post in August outlining misconduct allegations made against her and examined as part of a confidential internal Labor investigation.
It found Ms Husar had mistreated her electorate staff but did not find evidence to support claims of sexual harassment or of her flashing another federal MP.
Ms 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".
Justice Rares on Friday struck out particulars in Buzzfeed's defence which sought to prove the truth of the "slut" imputations claimed by Ms Husar, with the judge finding they weren't anywhere near capable of doing so.
BuzzFeed's lawyer Clarissa Amato said before the decision that there'd be a question at trial as to whether the "slut" meaning was conveyed, with the news site not using the word in its article.
If it was, BuzzFeed wanted to plead it was substantially true.
However, Ms Husar's lawyer, Sandy Dawson SC, said the now struck-out particulars didn't show any instances of his client having indiscriminate sex or bragging about it.
He said they included claims of her openly flirting with and making a suggestive comment to her physiotherapist at staff drinks, and a "so-called Sharon Stone incident" involving fellow MP Jason Clare.
Also included was an allegation Ms Husar had an intimate relationship with another MP - later telling a media advisor she'd enjoyed it and didn't want her election to parliament to compromise that.
"That's not slut sex, Your Honour, having a relationship with someone else that's intimate," Mr Dawson said.
Ms Amato said Ms Husar's alleged conversation with her media advisor about the relationship was unnecessary, egregious and inappropriate.
The case will return to court in March.
Australian Associated Press