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We’re so sorry to Steve Price for carrying someone else’s defamatory press release briefly but also believe many of these emals sent to his lawyer by Crikey subscribers are absolutely spot on.

Paragraph 5(e) in the writ filed with the Victorian Supreme Court complained that we published an article that suggested:

“the plaintiff had accepted a free volvo and other benefits from secret benefactors in exchange for making favourable comments about those benefactors on air”.

Well, when Steve Price was recently trying to raise money for cancer-struck young golfer Travis Woodword, he was delighted when his Volvo-spruiking sponsor, Bilia Hawthorn, rang up and offered $3000.

“My great sponsor Bilia Hawthorn,” he said. “What a generous, generous offer.”

A few minutes later the multi-hatted Eddie McGuire rang up and generously offered a day on the Presidents table for two to be auctioned off to help Travis.

Eddie then also got in a plug for Bilia Hawthorn, saying that they are also sponsors of Collingwood Footy Club, where good old Eddie is President.

Half Price responded by again thanking them and saying how they are also talking to their suppliers about raising some cash. And then Eddie explained the game pretty clearly: “If a corporate wants to come along we’ll even give them a plug on air.”

And just when you thought they couldn’t possible plug them the givers of Price’s free Volvo again, Collingwood Captain Nathan Buckley rings up and offered “my full signature, and I don’t often do that” on a Collingwood jumper to go with the great prize of spending a day with Eddie.

How did Bucks get onto this gig, surely he doesn’t sit around on a Wednesday arvo listening to Half Price?

Nope, Bucks explained that: “I walked into Bilia Hawthorn about half an hour ago”.

Well, seeing as these providers of free Volvos to celebrities are getting such a huge “car for comment” run on 3AW, we would encourage readers to get in touch with them and tell them what you think of the practice.

The phone number is (03) 9882 3600 and the email is [email protected] For your information, Crikey had a chat to someone senior at the Australian Broadcasting Authority last week and the comment was that Price was not technically in breach of the ABA rules and therefore did not suffer an adverse ruling. However, it is patently clear that he receives a free car from a Volvo dealer and regularly plugs them on air. Interestingly, Crikey has heard second hand (there’s no first hand relationship these days) that when Jill Singer filled in for Half Price on 3AW, she was told not to bag Volvos. Frankly, I reckon Volvos are crap. Only boring fuddy duddies drive them. They’re supposed to be safe but TAC stats show that you’re more likely to be injured if you drive a Volvo. The cars are probably very safe, but it just goes to show that only terrible drivers buy them. I’m not sure what sort of driver gets a free one.

Many Crikey readers and subscribers have also sent emails to Half Price’s lawyer at [email protected] These are a few of the ones that aren’t blatantly defamatory and then at the bottom we’ve explained a bit about Half Price’s interesting past in the light of another bout of homophobia on air yesterday.

Letters from Crikey subscribers to Half Price’s lawyers

Dear Sir,

I note with interest that you are representing Steve Price in his defamation action against Stephen Mayne and Crikey.

I have heard Steve Price on the radio. His take-no-prisoners style is not exactly to my taste, but I respect his right to broadcast in such a manner. However, I do find it somewhat strange that he is using Australia’s arcane and outdated libel laws to sue a fellow journalist. It does him no credit whatsoever and may even show him to be a little thin-skinned to say the least.

I am a regular reader of Crikey, but did not see the offending piece. I know that it was removed as soon as your firm requested it on behalf of Mr Price. I also know that Stephen Mayne did not write the article and that it came from Raymond Hoser, well known for his bouts of exaggeration.

Again, I do find it odd that Mr Price has chosen not to sue the author of the letter and a reasonable person of independent mind would be likely to draw the conclusion that there is not just a protection of reputation issue involved in that decision.

I can see no damage to Mr Price’s reputation in this case at all. I think of him in exactly the same way now as I did before the matter arose.

Can you imagine what Mr Price would be saying if the roles were reversed? No doubt he would be calling it an outrage and an attack on the already limited freedom the Australian media “enjoys”. This attack of dummy spitting by him is way out of proportion and hypocritical. I know Stephen Mayne to be a fair and honourable man. Again, his style of journalism has its fair share of detractors, but even most of them acknowledge his right to present a point of view.

I have no doubt a request for a right of reply on the Crikey! website would have been met favourably, and, let’s face it, would also be read by the same number of people who saw the offending piece in the first place.

No doubt your client has considered the wisdom of bringing this matter to wider attention. Or is it just a case of wanting to make an example of Stephen Mayne because Steve Price doesn’t like a little honest competition?

Mr Anderson, I understand you are probably a busy man, but an answer from you or your client by the end of the week would be very much appreciated.

Regards, Frank P

London

Dear Adrian

Is suing a backyard website something your really want to do? Is it worth taking on someone who has, quite literally nothing to lose?

Hope this is a great moment in your career, and that you will be remembered fondly as a man who would do the bidding of a (censored).

Andrew R

Dear Sir

I would like to address you on the matter of Steve Price’s defamation action against Stephen Mayne.

I am one of a small number of subscribers to crikey.com.au and I did not see the article in question, although I am now aware that there was a swift retraction and apology. I had not heard of Mr Price before this matter and I cannot see that any damage has been done to his reputation.

Crikey is run on the smell of an oily rag and it is well known that Mr Mayne has scant assets. Mr Price has little to gain from this action, media reports of the case would probably ensure him more embarrassment than the alleged defamatory act ever could.

Your client may be unaware of the avidly defended internet tradition of free speech and free expression, bringing a defamation case against a website may raise grave doubts about his own intellect and commitment to the liberal democratic tradition.

yours sincerely

Wendy R

Neutral Bay NSW 2089

Hello Adrian.

I’ll make this short but not so sweet.

I believe you will acting on behalf of Mr Steve Price, the supposed “journalist”, who says his reputation has been tarnished by Crikey’s publication of a piece written by a Mr Hoser.

Now, let me say that, I definitely did not need Crikey to tell me that Mr Steve Price is (censored). Some would say the only thing that Mr Steve Price is interested in is himself and his ego.

So I ask myself Adrian, why would this professional Adrian Anderson be interested (or even consider) representing Mr Steve Price. Well Adrian, at this point, I have to assume that you are in some way similar to Mr Steve Price (birds of a feather …) or agree with what he has to say. Otherwise, I’d have to assume you have no backbone at all and that you are just doing it for the money!!!!!

However, I’d love to see you in action because that is when we will really see how similar you are to Mr Steve Price.

regards,

Fernando L

Dear Adrian,

I believe that the Crikey boys are now following protocol and making apologetic noises. Well you and I both know they have nothing to apologise for. Your client is (censored) who would be far better suited working as a (censored) rather than the trade he finds himself in.

A hex on the little (censored).

Yours in Torts,

Garth (Garry’s cousin)

Dear Adrian,

Re: S. “Half” Price vs Crikey & Stephen Mayne

I believe you have received a couple of letters from Crikey supporters urging you not to go ahead with this writ on be-“half” of your pint-sized client.

I urge you to stand your ground.

Do not be swayed by the naysayers.

I reckon if this gets to court it could be the best theatre since Derryn went to jail.

There are many folks who can’t wait to see Steve Price up there in the witness box putting his “reputation” on the line.

Best Wishes,

John Newcombe

ps: If all else fails, I suggest Price challenges Mayne to a duel. Rochie & I could adjudicate. Swords at dawn, & I can’t wait to see the (censored) stab Mayne in the knee.

Hello Adrian,

Just a quick note to wish you and your (censored) client, “Steve” Price, all the worst with regard his ridiculous libel action against Crikey magazine.

Your client is a self-important little (censored) who deserves all the ridicule and opprobrium his behaviour will attract.

Yours etc etc,

Garry R

Dear Adrian,

A quick post to urge you to reconsider your decision to represent Steve Price in his ludicrous libel action against a bankrupt internet outfit.

For your own professional reputation, not to mention integrity, cast him adrift. He is dead wood, a derisory figure in Melbourne, and any attempt to join his futile money grabbing scheme will result in a loss of face. Show some backbone man, and hand back his brief.

All the best, Andrew Trader

Dear Mr Anderson,

As a journalist of twenty years’ standing, and a subscriber to Crikey.com.au, I would like to assure you, and Mr Price, that I did not feel Mr Price’s reputation was in any way affected by anything that appeared on that website. I personally take everything I read on Crikey with a dash of salt, knowing that Mr Mayne’s journalistic style is loose, easy, and rather flamboyant (which is what makes it so readable) and that very little on the Internet should ever be taken as gospel — in most cases, sites reflect just one person’s personal opinion of any event or situation. I feel that all websites should be treated like advertisements, in that readers should expect a degree of “puff”, to help promote the product. The result is that I held Mr Price in exactly the same esteem as I did before this issue arose.

However, Mr Price’s action in suing Mr Mayne for defamation has seriously lowered my opinion of him, the result of which is that I now hold Mr Price in very low esteem. Perhaps you could advise Mr Price whether it’s possible to sue himself for defamation. Quite likely, I would have thought, if he’s involved in some type of corporate structure.

Best Wishes,

Greg B

Dear Mr Anderson,

I am most disappointed that your client (Mr. Price) has chosen to sue Stephen Mayne of Crikey.

My understanding is that Australia is a more litigious nation than the USA. This sort of action will make us – justifiably – a even greater laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Mr. Price has not suffered from the article. When the problem was pointed out to Mr. Mayne the offending piece was removed. Even though I did not see the piece in my opinion it should have been left and Mr. Price should have been given the opportunity of putting his point of view.

Mr. Price should grow up and should be man enough to take similar to what he dishes out.

Wasting our precious court resources on placating the egos of people like Mr Price is scandalous and I am surprised you are party to it.

Kevin C

Dear Mr Anderson

As I understand Mr Price is on leave from 3AW for a couple of weeks, I have taken the liberty of writing directly to you as his solicitor. I hope it doesn’t inconvenience you too much. I would appreciate a reply to this note by Monday, 8 January 2001.

I am writing to express my disappointment that your client has chosen to sue Crikey and its founder, Stephen Mayne, for libel. I feel that Mr Price should withdraw his writ. The very concept of a journalist of Mr Price’s experience and standing suing a fledgling journalist like Mr Mayne is ironic to say the least.

I am a regular reader of Crikey and I did not see the offending piece. I believe it was removed as soon as your firm complained to Mr Mayne. I understand also that Mr Mayne was not the author of the piece involved but that it originated from Mr Raymond Hoser. From the little I know of Mr Hoser, he is someone who is prone to a little exaggeration and a colourful turn of phrase. It is somewhat surprising to me that Mr Price has chosen not to sue the author of the letter and a reasonable person of independent mind would be likely to draw the conclusion that there is not just a protection of reputation issue involved in that decision.

I can assure you that in my case there has been no damage to Mr Price’s reputation and I hold him in exactly the same esteem as I did before this issue arose.

However, if he persists with this somewhat petulant and over-the-top attack on an independent media outlet, I will be very disillusioned and I will make my views known to as many people as I can. Given Mr Price’s buckaneering style of journalism, it is incongruous at least, and probably somewhat hypocritical, to be so thin skinned.

I feel an appropriate response by Mr Price would be to ask for a right of reply on the Crikey site where he can put his position unedited. Given the power of technology, it might even be possible for Mr Mayne to send the reply to his subscriber base. I am sure Mr Mayne regrets the incident.

Please reply or ask Mr Price to reply.

Fond regards and Happy New Year,

Jo DS

Adrian

Your use of libel laws to hamper free speech in Australia is an ongoing scandal.

Neil T

Finally, this is the letter I sent the Corrs lawyer this morning.

Friday, January 19, 2001

To Adrian Anderson

Not yet a partner

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Fax number: (03) 9602 5544?

Phone number: (03) 9672 3420

[email protected]

Dear Ades,

Following are the two notices of appearance for Stephen Mayne and Crikey Media Pty Ltd that will be filed this afternoon.

I’m looking forward to an invite on the Corrs table at the Quill Awards this year – presuming that your sponsorship and support for free speech and good journalism will continue.

Can I digress further for a brief moment and say that I can’t imagine what the late Grant Hattam would think about this ridiculous effort on behalf of your client. He was finest defamation lawyer I ever dealt with during my days at the Herald Sun, mainly because he was a strong supporter of free speech and getting material published.

We were most amused to hear your client, let’s call him “Half” for short, on 2UE yesterday bemoaning the amount of ridiculous litigation in Australia. What a hypocrite.

Give my best to Richard Leder. He did a sterling job fighting the corporate forces on behalf of good journalism back in the Kennett v Singer and co days on Today Tonight. I would imagine he would regard this action as ridiculous too.

If the case proceeds, I’ll be looking to subpoena as much of the ABA material as possible. Can you advise whether you acted for “Half” in this matter.

Also, give my best to John Dahlsen and tell him I’m looking to having another run at the Woolworths board this year. Could you ask him that the Woolies AGM not clash with that of Southern Cross Broadcasting as I’m also contemplating a tilt at their board on a free-speech platform.

Lastly, you’re all invited to our “Stick it to Steve” fundraiser on February 14 at the Imperial Hotel opposite Parliament House from 5.30pm. Look forward to catching up for a drink and laugh.

All the best

Stephen Mayne

Crikey Media

And what about the Poofta bashing

Price also demonstrated his growing homophobia as he yesterday tried to whip up a frenzy about couples – gay or otherwise – having sex in the bushes in parks.

“If my children stumbled across two pooftas,” he fumed before declining to finish his sentence and instead saying that he’d take a hose next time he goes for a walk in the park.

A succession of callers rang in to try and Hoser the frothing Price down and to one he retorted: “Yeah but I don’t have to go to a park for sex.”

That’s right Steve, you only had to go to your newsroom back in 1993 and shack up with Wendy Black, a young 20-something reporter who is now the mother of your two children who you now take for walks in the park.

There were certainly plenty of eyebrows raised when Half Price, who’d been down the aisle before and was then and still is the 3AW king pin as program director, shacked up with the youngest, cutest reporter in the newsroom.

For some reason we’ve had a few emails suggesting us to ask certain people from Half Price’s past what he was like. We’ve no idea what they are talking about and have no plans to gratuitously go digging into his personal past, but his ridiculous homophobia yesterday just can’t be left alone.

There are a lot of people who regard casual sex in the bushes as a lesser sin than shacking up with a subordinate half your age. Frankly, Crikey reckons that neither is much of a sin at all. We just reckon Half Price is a hypocrite.

Peter Fray

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