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Rival ‘not pushed’

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April 27, 2018

Former Liberal candidate Sophie Mirabella.

Former Liberal candidate Sophie Mirabella would deny that she had pushed independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan after an official function at Benalla two years ago, a County Court trial heard yesterday.

Ms Mirabella is suing Benalla Newspapers for defamation over a newspaper article published in the Benalla Ensign on April 20, 2016, which said Ms Mirabella pushed Ms McGowan to prevent her from appearing in a photograph following the opening of a new wing at the Cooinda Aged Care Centre.

The barrister for Ms Mirabella, Georgina Schoff, QC, told the jury of five men and one woman that Ms Mirabella would give an account of what happened at the opening and she was asking the jury to find that anyone reading the article would think less of Ms Mirabella.

Ms Schoff said the article meant that Ms Mirabella pushed Ms McGowan out of the way for her own political reasons. ‘‘It was fake news,’’ Ms Schoff said.

‘‘Ms Mirabella was stunned and horrified. She felt sick to her stomach,’’ Ms Schoff said.

She said the article attracted widespread coverage from other media.

Ms Mirabella lost the Indi seat to Ms McGowan in 2013 and failed to win it back in the 2016 election.

Appearing for Benalla Newspapers, David Gilbertson, QC, said evidence would be given that Ms Mirabella had prevented Federal Minister for the Aged Ken Wyatt from appearing in a photo with Ms McGowan, by placing her hands on his chest and preventing him from moving.

Mr Wyatt, who also attended the opening ceremony, is expected to give evidence on Monday.

Ms Mirabella began giving her evidence to the court at Wangaratta yesterday afternoon and is expected to continue today.

The trial is expected to take five to six days.

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