“The publications themselves are, it seems to me, highly unlikely to change very settled views about these men.”
Defamation trials are supposed to restore the reputation of complainants, but this one apparently had the opposite effect on anyone who sat in the witness box.
Palmer gave extraordinary testimony during his cross-examination that he thought the “anti-Palmer” legislation gave McGowan a James Bond-style “licence to kill”, and led him to fear for his life.
McGowan’s lawyers ridiculed that statement but McGowan himself was forced to sit through an uncomfortable cross-examination.
Palmer’s lawyers went through text messages between McGowan and WA Attorney-General John Quigley in 2020 in excruciating detail.
The texts exposed locker room talk between the pair as they derived Palmer’s weight, describing him as a “big fat liar,” a “turd,” and “the fat man.”
The texts also offered a glimpse into McGowan’s relationship with media mogul Kerry Stokes.
A text message chain revealed McGowan alerted Stokes to the anti-Palmer legislation one minute before it was read into WA Parliament in 2020.
“Kerry, we’ve just introduced legislation to block a claim by Clive Palmer against the state of WA for $28 billion… The risk is too great… obviously he won’t be happy. I’ll call to discuss,” the message to Stokes read.
In the next three days, front pages on Stokes’ newspaper TheWest australian depicted Palmer as Dr Evil, a cockroach, and a cane toad.
Stokes congratulated the premier and joked that the newspaper’s depiction of Palmer as a cockroach could be sold as an item for his WA-based charity.
“Mark, well done,” Stokes texted. “I think no one else could have achieved that legislation in the speed you did. Reckon the insect heads should make a Telethon sales item. People are with you!”
Quigley did not escape a cringeworthy cross-examination either.
He was forced to fly back to Sydney in April at taxpayers’ expense to redo his evidence after admitting mistakes in his earlier testimony.
Quigley was a veteran criminal lawyer before entering parliament, but Lee tore into his effort as a witness, describing his evidence as “all over the shop”.
The blunders prompted questions from the WA opposition over Quigley’s ability for his ministerial role.
The defamation bid is one of several legal challenges Mr Palmer has pursued against the WA premier since 2020, including a failed bid in the High Court to have the state’s hard border closure deemed unconstitutional.