Federal MP Andrew Hastie denies he swapped information about Ben Roberts-Smith for positive media coverage

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie has denied accusations he swapped information about Ben Roberts-Smith for positive media coverage that furthered his political career.

The Liberal MP today gave evidence for a second day in the high-stakes defamation trial in the Federal Court.

Mr Hastie was read newspaper snippets describing him as an “emerging Liberal star” and a “moral champion” of the Afghanistan war probe.

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie has denied accusations he swapped information about Ben Roberts-Smith for positive media coverage. (Louise Kennerley)

Mr Hastie has gone on the record for interviews with journalists Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie, two of the three Nine Newspapers reporters being sued by Mr Roberts-Smith.

“You provide him (Nick McKenzie) with information for his stories and in return, he writes glowing remarks about you,” Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister Arthur Moses, SC, claimed.

Mr Hastie hit back at the allegation.

“My ambition always has been to preserve the Special Air Service Regiment and the way we do that is by coming clean with some of the mistakes that have been made in the last 15 years,” he said.

The former captain testified there were well-established rumours within the unit that Mr Roberts-Smith kicked a detainee off a cliff and bullied rookie soldiers.

Mr Roberts-Smith denies any wrongdoing.

Ben Roberts-Smith outside Federal Court in Sydney
Claims of an affair by Ben Roberts-Smith’s former girlfriend have been aired in court today. (Nick Moir)

Mr Hastie told the Federal Court he now pities the Victoria Cross recipient.

“I pity this whole process… this is terrible for our country, terrible for the SAS,” he said.

Mr Hastie was asked if he was giving evidence for Nine Newspapers because the publisher is covering his legal fees in a separate defamation trial in Western Australia.

Mr Hastie rejected suggestions he is beholden to the organisation.

The marathon trial will continue next week with evidence from more former and serving soldiers.

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