The Daily Telegraph's bid for a theatre company to become another defendant in Geoffrey Rush's defamation lawsuit is "utterly hopeless" and absurd, says the actor's lawyer.
Sue Chrysanthous said any "publication" by the Sydney Theatre Company was made to only one person - the newspaper's own journalist Jonathon Moran - compared with the damage caused to the Oscar winner by the tabloid's publication to one million people.
She was responding to an application in the Federal Court on Monday by the newspaper's lawyer, Alec Leopold SC, to bring a cross-claim against the STC and to amend its defence.
The 66-year-old actor is suing the Telegraph and Moran over newspaper stories published late last year alleging he behaved inappropriately with a colleague during the company's production of King Lear in 2015.
The Telegraph denies the articles made Rush out to be a pervert and a predator, submitting no allegations of a sexual nature were made.
Mr Leopold said the STC provided three statements knowing the Telegraph would be likely to rely on them as being accurate and that they would be re-published.
A cross-claim would avoid the Telegraph having to launch separate proceedings against the theatre company after a defamation trial - saving time and money.
Rush would also benefit because a second proceeding would mean the whole case would be aired again and "he won't get the closure he needs", the tabloid's lawyer said.
But Ms Chrysanthous asked why the Telegraph would seek contribution from the STC when its so-called "publication" was to one person - being its own journalist.
"Why is Nationwide News seriously thinking of a contribution from an artistic organisation that would not be here but for grants?" she said.
If the cross-claim was allowed it would "severely prejudice" Rush and would add a week to the trial, she added.
The parties could only guess what defences the STC would raise.
Ms Chrysanthous noted one source told Moran a quote was "not for attribution" meaning the company could sue over breach of confidentiality.
There was no evidence STC assented to the headline "King Leer" or the accompanying photo of Rush that "makes it look like a guilty mug shot", the lawyer said.
She also referred to an aspect of the case in relation to the "world exclusive" tag.
"It is exclusive to Mr Moran because he has made it up," she said.
Justice Michael Wigney said he hoped to give his decision on Friday. He expects the trial will be listed for August or September.
Australian Associated Press