Hockey awarded $ 200k in Fair­fax defama­tion case

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

A THREE- WORD head­line and two tweets have cost Fair­fax Media $ 200,000 af­ter Trea­surer Joe Hockey suc­cess­fully sued for defama­tion.

Mr Hockey sought dam­ages over the pub­li­ca­tion last May of a story about the North Syd­ney Fo­rum, a “se­cre­tive” po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in his elec­torate.

The ar­ti­cle was run in three news­pa­pers – in­clud­ing un­der the head­line “Trea­surer for Sale” on the front page of The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald.

Fed­eral Court judge Richard White ruled the words on an SMH advertising plac­ard were defam­a­tory and Mr Hockey is owed dam­ages of $ 120,000.

Two sim­i­larly worded tweets by The Age were also deemed defam­a­tory, with dam­ages set at $ 80,000.

But Jus­tice White did not up­hold Mr Hockey’s claims re­gard­ing the ar­ti­cles.

The Trea­surer launched three par­al­lel ac­tions against the pub­lish­ers of the SMH, The Age and The Can­berra Times over the ar­ti­cles, re­lated posters and tweets. The ar­ti­cles said Mr Hockey was pro­vid­ing priv­i­leged ac­cess to a se­lect group in re­turn for do­na­tions to the Lib­eral Party.

“Apart from the print ver­sion of The Can­berra Times, each pub­li­ca­tion in­cluded promi­nently the words ‘ Trea­surer for Sale’ or ‘ Trea­surer Hockey for Sale’,” Jus­tice White said.

He also found SMH editor- in- chief Dar­ren Good­sir, who came up with the head­line, wanted to “get back at” Mr Hockey af­ter the Trea­surer had in­sisted on a cor­rec­tion and apol­ogy in re­la­tion to an ar­ti­cle pub­lished ear­lier in 2014.

“He was … mo­ti­vated by his an­i­mus to­wards Mr Hockey and that he sought a head­line which would be hurt­ful of, or dam­ag­ing to, Mr Hockey,” Jus­tice White said.

But Jus­tice White found that an or­di­nary rea­son­able reader of the ar­ti­cles them­selves would “not have re­garded the ar­ti­cles as con­vey­ing that Mr Hockey’s con­duct was cor­rupt, let alone that he was ‘ ped­dling in­flu­ence’ ”.

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