David Ley­on­hjelm fails to have Sarah Han­son-Young defama­tion suit thrown out

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines -

Sarah Han­son-Young’s defama­tion law­suit against a fel­low se­na­tor will pro­ceed af­ter the fed­eral court re­jected a bid to have it halted.

The Greens se­na­tor is su­ing the Lib­eral Democrats se­na­tor David Ley­on­hjelm over in­ter­views he gave between 28 June and 2 July to Sky News, Mel­bourne ra­dio sta­tion 3AW and the ABC’s 7.30 pro­gram, and a me­dia state­ment posted on Medium.com on 28 June.

In the ma­te­rial, he elab­o­rated on his com­ment to Han­son-Young on the floor of par­lia­ment to “stop shag­ging men” amid a de­bate on leg­is­la­tion seek­ing to prevent vi­o­lence against women.

In his ap­pli­ca­tion to have the case stayed, Ley­on­hjelm ar­gued that par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege pre­cluded him from

run­ning a truth de­fence.

Among other con­tentions, Ley­on­hjelm said any rep­u­ta­tion dam­age arose from Han­son-Young’s own words when she said “he’s slut-sham­ing me” dur­ing a ra­dio in­ter­view.

The court was told she de­nied say­ing all men were rapists as at­trib­uted to her and Hansard did not record her say­ing those words.

In his judg­ment on Wed­nes­day, Jus­tice Richard White dis­missed Ley­on­hjelm’s ap­pli­ca­tion. His coun­sel flagged a likely ap­peal.

The judge also or­dered Ley­on­hjelm to pay Han­son-Young’s costs.

The case will re­turn to court on 18 De­cem­ber.

In her ac­tion, Han­son-Young said she was de­famed by Ley­on­hjelm’s por­trayal of her as a hyp­ocrite and misan­drist, in that he al­leged she said words in par­lia­ment that were “tan­ta­mount” to claim­ing all men are rapists but “nev­er­the­less had sex­ual re­la­tions with them”.

Her bar­ris­ter, Sue Chrysan­thou, pre­vi­ously told White that the se­na­tor was su­ing over com­ments made out­side par­lia­ment.

Ley­on­hjelm had no re­dress re­lat­ing to his de­fence merely be­cause the sub­ject mat­ter of those words con­cerned some­thing that may or may not have hap­pened in par­lia­ment, she said.

“A per­son is not en­ti­tled to walk out­side of par­lia­ment and fab­ri­cate an as­ser­tion as to what was said and at­tempt to de­feat a defama­tion claim un­der the guise of par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege,” Chrysan­thou said.

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