Bruce Lehrmann has accepted it appeared he lied in a television interview when recounting an excuse he gave to a superior for his after-hours visit to Parliament House.
The former Liberal staffer is facing a barrage of questions in the Federal Court about the various excuses he has given for being in Senator Linda Reynold's office on the night he is accused of raping Brittany Higgins.
"The one explanation you gave on the Spotlight program about why you lied to [chief of staff Fiona] Brown was itself a lie," Matthew Collins KC, representing Network Ten, said.
Bruce Lehrmann is suing Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a February 2021 story on The Project, which revealed Ms Higgins' claims of being sexually assaulted two years earlier.
The Federal Court defamation trial entered its fourth day on Monday, when Mr Lehrmann returned to the witness box.
In a June interview on 7NEWS Spotlight, Mr Lehrmann told journalist Liam Bartlett he withheld telling Ms Brown he had worked on question time briefs in the ministerial office because she had previously given him a security breach warning.
However, the court heard Mr Lehrmann had not spoken to Ms Brown about the referenced breach or any warning by the time he was asked to explain his and Ms Higgins' late-night visit.
Dr Collins: "You accept, don't you, that you lied?"
Mr Lehrmann: "Well, it would appear that way. Yes."
Dr Collins: "You knew you were not telling the truth at the time of that interview."
Mr Lehrmann: "Well, not necessarily. I just said that that interview was hastily arranged. It was very nerve-wracking for me appearing on national television."
Dr Collins: "You don't look nervous, Mr Lehrmann. You look very keen to tell a lie about what had happened in the meeting with Ms Brown."
Question time briefs explanation under fire
Mr Lehrmann previously told the court he spent about 40 minutes in the office on the night in question writing down notes regarding the French submarine contract after discussions at a pub.
Dr Collins described this explanation as fabricated.
On Monday, Mr Lehrmann could not recall what information about the contract he had acquired on the Civic night out or who he had received it from.
"I want you to tell his honour what information you learned at The Dock and 88mph that was so important that it needed to be jotted down between 1.48am and 2.30am while you're inebriated in Parliament House on the 23rd of March, 2019," Dr Collins said.
Mr Lehrmann said he could not remember what notes he took down but that they were related to Ms Reynold's interest in moving the contract to Western Australia for political reasons.
"Can you not do any better than this, Mr Lehrmann?" Dr Collins asked.
Call avoided out of 'fear'
Mr Lehrmann was also pressed about why he had not answered a phone call from his chief of staff days after the alleged rape.
Instead of calling her back, the court heard Mr Lehrmann asked for Ms Brown to email him because he wanted records of communication regarding his the potential security breach his after-hours visit had caused.
"You feared that after you had left Parliament House on the 26th of March, Ms Brown had obtained Ms Higgins' account of what occurred on the Saturday morning," Dr Collins said.
"You feared that Ms Higgins had told Ms Brown that you had sexually assaulted her."
To both propositions, Mr Lehrmann responded: "No, not at all."
'Spiralling' led to cocaine
On Monday afternoon, as text messages from that evening were read, the man said he had done so because "I spiralled pretty quickly".
Dr Collins responded: "Sorry, your reaction to spiralling was to ask to have cocaine brought to you?"
"I was in a bad place, yes," Mr Lehrmann said.
The court heard Mr Lehrmann later sent another message saying "happy days".
"That was a reference to cocaine being available?" Dr Collins asked.
Mr Lehrmann responded: "Ahh, I don't know if it was or not. Probably."
Cross-examination not a 'social cricket match'
Before questioning resumed on Monday, Justice Michael Lee expressed several concerns about Mr Lehrmann facing two cross-examinations, "both of which will almost certainly involve credit attacks".
"One is not to approach cross-examination in any case, let alone a case like this, like a social cricket match where a batsman retires at 50 to give someone else a go," the judge said.
"I consider that a cross-examination being conducted by two experienced counsel on a witness has a real potential to operate unfairly."
Ms Wilkinson's barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, whom is yet to query Mr Lehrmann, argued no topics or questions would be doubled up on.
Ms Chrysanthou said her client and Ten were entitled to be separately represented.
"[Ms Wilkinson] is entitled to give instructions in our own defence having been named personally," the barrister said.
"Your honour proceeds on the assumption that just because parties are in the same interest on certain topics in the trial, that those parties are getting the same instructions as to what questions to ask."
The court heard that Dr Collins has and will continue to ask questions regarding a truth defence - aiming to prove the rape allegation is "substantially true".
Mr Chrysanthou, on the other hand, is set to ask questions relating to identification, common law qualified privilege and aggravated damages, among other things.
Ultimately, the judge said Ms Chrysanthou would be allowed to cross-examine Mr Lehrmann in a "limited" fashion and the court would assess her involvement on a "question by question basis".
Mr Lehrmann has always denied raping Ms Higgins at Parliament House in 2019, when the pair worked as staffers for the then-defence industry minister.
No findings have been made against him.
On Monday, Justice Lee also said Ms Wilkinson's legal action, started in the NSW Supreme Court, against Ten would now be heard in the Federal Court.
The high-profile journalist is suing the television network, which she claims has refused to pay the legal bills for her separate defence in the defamation proceedings.
"It should all be dealt with together so there's no risk of inconsistent findings," the judge said.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525.