Hockey awarded $ 200k in Fairfax defamation case
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’ ”.