Mark McGowan v Clive Palmer trial judgment finds both guilty of defamation – Michmutters

Mark McGowan v Clive Palmer trial judgment finds both guilty of defamation

Premier Mark McGowan and billionaire Clive Palmer have been found to have defamed each other during their vicious war of words in 2020 — but the harm done was minor, according to the Federal Court — as they were the damages awarded.

Delivering his judgment today, Justice Michael Lee said the defenses of both sides to allegations of defamation had failed — and the back-and-forth barbs had been defamatory.

But because the Federal Court judge found that both were involved in political argument — as nasty as it was — finding “real or material” damage was almost impossible.

He declined to award claimed aggravated damages to Mr Palmer, and said he could not find he suffered any real damage from Mr McGowan’s comments.

He assessed the damage to Mr Palmer’s reputation warranted an award of $5,000.

And Justice Lee then pointed to Mr McGowan’s landslide election victory as to the fact his reputation was not damaged by Mr Palmer — and might actually have been enhanced.

However, he said Mr Palmer’s comments warranted an award of $20,000 to the Premier.

In summing up the case, Justice Lee said arguments that neither side was involved in political posturing was “unpersuasive and superficial”.

He said amid the feud, the pair had both taken the opportunities to advance their political stance — particularly Mr McGowan, who he said “had a bully pulpit”.

And he concluded the “game had not been worth the candle” — taking up valuable resources from the court and the WA taxpayer.

“These proceedings have not only involved considerable expenditure by Mr Palmer and the taxpayers of Western Australia, but have also consumed considerable resources of the Commonwealth and, importantly, diverted Court time from resolving controversies of real importance to persons who have a pressing need to litigate ,” Justice Lee said.

“At a time when public resources devoted to courts are under strain, and judicial resources are stretched, one might think that only a significant interference or attack causing real reputational damage and significant hurt to feelings should be subject of an action for defamation by a political figure.”

The defamation case between the Premier and the billionaire stemmed from public barbs traded more than two years ago, as the pandemic was still spreading — and with Mr Palmer’s $30 billion claim against WA not yet public.


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