Michael Stutchbury, the editor of The Australian, gave this excellent speech on defamation laws to the International Media Ethics Conference in Canberra on July 4, 2002. Check it out and then scroll through out updated list of famous defamation battles.
Michael Stutchbury, the editor of The Australian, gave this excellent speech on defamation laws to the International Media Ethics Conference in Canberra on July 4, 2002. Check it out and then scroll through out updated list of famous defamation battles.
All these areas of ethical concern underline the case for an open society, for a culture of free speech and vigorous debate, and for a free and credible media. Governments can pass laws and the judiciary can enforce them, but often the most effective weapon against the sort of ethically-troubling developments I have listed is simple exposure. We will not have a healthy and prosperous society if individuals do not have the right to be informed and to freely speak out. This is a basic pillar of our society, yet there is little official or institutionalised support for this pillar. There is no recognition in Australia’s constitution, for example, of the fundamental importance of the public right to be outspoken. Unlike the United States there is no constitutional right of free speech.
Beeby reveals the culture of suppression
Partly because of this, we are seeing a rising culture of secrecy and suppression in Australia. This culture manifests itself in many ways, but let me give some examples provided by a colleague Warren Beeby in his capacity as chairman of The Commonwealth Press Union.
* Increasingly, the judiciary is preventing the people from being told what goes on in supposedly open courts. Judges and magistrates in South Australia’s courts issued 328 suppression orders in 2000-2001, 87 per cent more than the previous year.
* Freedom of Information is becoming a sick joke as governments and bureaucrats jack up its price. One Victorian newspaper sought Freedom of Information details on the travel costs of federal MPs and was advised it would have to pay more than $1 million for the information. Government departments are now charging for “decision-making time”.
* The Federal Parliament imposes Kafkaesque rules against the sort of photographs that can be published of our elected representatives at work in the chambers. The rules include a prohibition on photographs that might leave our politicians open to ridicule.
* The khaki-tinged period since the Tampa and September 11 has produced an alarming rise in official misinformation and censorship. One result of this culture of secrecy imposed by Canberra is that Indonesians can be better informed about boatpeople who get washed up in Indonesia than Australians are about boatpeople who make it to Australia. There have been instances where the Americans have provided basic information about the Australian military contribution to the war against terror that Australian officials have refused to provide. In the pre-election heat of the controversy over the boatchildren overboard claim, the press secretary for the then Defence Minister was asked if he himself had sought to clarify the discrepancies in the government’s position to his own satisfaction. His answer: “That’s an inappropriate question”.
* There are also more comical examples, such as the letter I received this year from a bureaucrat in the Federal Health Department warning me that in publishing a certain photograph, The Australian may have breached the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act. The page 3 photograph was of a visiting Hollywood producer who, as it happened, was smoking a fat cigar. The argument went that The Australian was a commercial venture, that by definition the paper sought to profit from its choice of articles and photographs, in this case of someone smoking. We lampooned the bureaucratic threat, but the example shows the sort of suppression and censorship that officials – be they bureaucrats, politicians or judges – will attempt if they have the power to inflict their pomposity and self-importance on the public.
THE COSTS OF DEFAMATION LAW
But the rising culture of secrecy also manifests itself in Australia’s shambolic defamation laws against damage to people’s reputations – laws which pose one of the great institutionalised barriers to free speech and an open society. Defamation laws have a chilling effect of the public’s right to be informed and the media’s ability to vigorously probe controversies in the church, the boardroom, the accountancy firms, the police form, the law firms, the defence forces and the government.
Today, I want to make the general case for getting rid of, almost in their entirety, defamation laws as we know them in Australia. I want to make the case for deregulating free speech by sweeping away defamation law.
We have heard much lately about the explosion in public liability insurance costs. There are several factors behind this, but it is clearly fed in large part by the surge in the court system’s willingness to provide business for touting lawyers who offer their services to people seeking forms of compensation for their misfortunes, whether it be tripping over a crack in the footpath or having a medical operation that goes wrong. This has become a community crisis because it has greatly increased the financial risk of all sorts of grass-roots community activities and commercial enterprises, from the local fete to the operating theatre. Governments are now intervening in various ways to limit the explosion in public and medical liability claims, just as they have in other areas such as workers compensation and motor vehicle accident compensation.
Something similar has been happening for some time in defamation law. The judges who run the taxpayer-funded court system are becoming increasingly willing to entertain all sorts of eyebrow-raising claims for compensation for supposed damage to individuals’ reputation. Lawyers are finding more and more creative ways to convince judges or juries of great wrongs to reputations that need to be compensated – and this will accelerate as governments force the courts to make public liability business less of a legal goldmine. Plaintiff lawyers spend days before juries to convince them that various damaging ”imputations” can be drawn from this or that article.
The difference between the litigation explosions in public liability and defamation is that the interests of the legal profession and politicians differ in public liability but coincide on defamation. In public liability, the politicians feel obvious political pressure from voters to fix the obvious problem, because its a problem that directly affects voter-citizens. With the explosion in defamation litigation, voter-citizens feel less threatened. They don’t directly bear the obvious costs – it’s a relatively small number of media companies which typically have to cough up the defamation payouts. And the judges, lawyers and politicians all have an interest in maintaining defamation business. For the legal profession, including judges, it’s a financially rewarding line of work. For politicians, its a potential source of personal payouts. They have vested interests against reining in the litigation explosion.
But of course the rising costs of defamation litigation extend far beyond the media companies who first pay the bills. Those bills are substantial – they run into many millions of dollars a year for media companies. This becomes very apparent when I venture from The Australian’s modest offices in scruffy Surry Hills to the luxurious CBD tower offices of our defamation defence lawyers. These lawyers don’t come cheap. Top barristers, I’m told, charge $5000 to $9000 a day. Top solicitors charge $400 to $500 per hour.
High quality journalism of the type which The Australian aspires to presumably is in the public interest. Yet, the substantial and increasing defamation costs imposed upon media companies act, in effect, as a tax upon quality journalism. In the political debate over media regulation, much is made of the need for “diversity” of media outlets. One source of diversity is small-scale and low-cost outlets, sometimes renegade in nature, which irritate the big companies in various ways. The crap-shoot of the defamation explosion can threaten to wipe out such outlets such as Crikey.com. And in much more pervasive ways, the uncertain threat of defamation litigation has a chilling effect on the media’s ability to vigorously report and analyse public events. In this way, the public’s right to know and its ability to speak out is infringed, to the detriment of the democratic system.
Rather than fight the lawyers on their own ground, the restrictions on free speech imposed by defamation law should be viewed similarly to most other forms of government regulation of individual behaviour. Like those who forged Australia’s economic reform program begun in the mid-1980s, opponents of defamation law face the problem that those who benefit from the current arrangements – that is, the legal profession and politicians – are well-organised and powerful, while those who lose out – mostly the general citizenship – are unorganised around this issue and mostly unaware of the costs they bear. Those who seek to promote the public interest in free speech need to gather their forces and, most importantly, harness their arguments.
These arguments should question the very basis of the legitimacy of defamation law. Defamation law today is a mixture of common law made by judges and statute law made by politicians. Together, the derivation of defamation law goes back centuries, perhaps to the Star Chambers and certainly to the 17th and 18th centuries when it acted as a substitute for duelling among the English male upper class over claimed loss of honour or reputation. Defamation law has been used by governments to restrict free speech and to control the democratic impulse since at least the early days of the printing press and has a dishonourable history in Australia stretching back to the early days of the penal colony. Today, in the 21st century, in the era of mass democracy, globalisation and the internet age, we must question its basic purpose – we must perform a cost-benefit analysis of the law.
A cost-benefit analysis would look at some of the fundamentals of what makes a good law or regulation. Such an examination might first look at who directly benefits from defamation payouts. The internet site Crikey.com provides a useful list of defamation litigants. It includes Tony Abbott, the businessman Chris Anderson, former BHP CEO Paul Anderson, Alan Bond, a former legal partner at Allen Allen & Hemsley Nick Carson, former NSW politician Rodney Cavalier, Peter Costello, former WA Senator Noel Crichton-Browne, entertainer Jason Donovan, John Elliott … and that’s not even to the end of the E’s. It’s become part of the culture of the Australian elite. One of my favourite repeat offenders is AMA president Kerryn Phelps. By and large, defamation law does not protect the general public. It enriches the well-off and powerful who know how to work the system and who mostly have means to publicly rebut slurs upon their reputations.
A cost-benefit analysis also would ask whether the system to protect reputation does so in a coherent or efficient fashion? I’ve spent some time reading the two lengthy judgements by Victorian Supreme Court judge Bongiorno which ruled against Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt for suggestions that a Victorian magistrate was soft or lenient on criminals, surely a matter of public interest. The case is too tortured to cover in detail. But the jury was instructed to say yes or no to a series of questions. It said yes, the Bolt article was ‘defamatory’ of the magistrate plaintiff. No, the article was not ‘true’. No, it was not a ‘faithful and accurate’ report of a certain proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court. No, the article was not fair comment on a matter of public interest. But yes, the conduct of the newspaper in publishing the article was ‘reasonable in the circumstances’. And no, the newspaper was not inspired by ‘malice’.
But the jury did not indicate what exactly was not ‘true’ about the article and the judge’s decision casts no light on the matter. The case against Bolt took 15 days of court hearings. In finding that Bolt, or his employer, should be punished for defaming the Magistrate, Judge Bongiorno made much of the Magistrate’s hurt ‘feelings’. In his final decision, Judge Bongiorno ruled that the Magistrate was entitled to compensatory damages of $210,000 – but gave no explanation of how he came up with that monetary assessment of the Magistrate’s loss of reputation or hurt feelings.
He added another $25,000 in exemplary or punitive damages, again with no justification of the exact amount, because Bolt had publicly crowed about the jury’s previous finding that publication of his article was reasonable. And then the judge added the suspiciously round number of $11,500 for interest, again with no calculation provided. That made a total of $246,500 ordered to be paid to the Magistrate. As a point of comparison, I understand that someone who loses their reproductive organs in a workplace accident has their damages capped at less $75,000.
The costs don’t end there. One report suggested that legal costs for the two sides in the Bolt case amounted to something like $500,000. And that doesn’t include the cost to the public of paying the judge’s salaries or the costs of running the courtroom. Judges repeatedly complain about the lack of resources available to the courts. A cost-benefit analysis would ask whether it is really in the public interest for a high-profile journalist such as Sixty Minutes’ Richard Carleton to be using the public infrastructure of the court system to sue the ABC’s Media Watch program for allegedly accusing him of plagiarism. Or for a radio talk back show host such as Steve Price, who has a daily audience of hundreds of thousands, to sue the one-man band that runs Crikey.com for something posted on its site for a few hours and read by a few hundred people.
A cost-benefit analysis also would ask whether monetary damages are the best way to compensate for supposed loss of reputation. Often it’s not clear at all that the plaintiff’s reputation has actually been damaged in any substantial way. And what does it mean when those who sue often settle for a payment on a confidential basis that presumably leaves the damage to their reputation unrepaired, but their bank balance more healthy?
A cost-benefit analysis also would query whether the technological basis of defamation law is being undermined in ways which will destabilise the system. Censorship and defamation law was tailor-made for a marketplace of a relatively small number of printing presses owned by a small number of publishers. This made it easier for tyrants or litigators to monitor who was publishing seditious material or to identify who had the deepest pockets.
But the internet literally makes the individual the publisher. This has greatly expanded the number of publishers and the amount of potentially actionable ‘published’ material in forums such as chat rooms. The internet also has expanded the geographic reach of publication beyond the established jurisdictional boundaries of the courts. Such developments will undermine the coherence of defamation law and lead to more clearly wacky judgements. Hence, the Victorian court ruling that an article posted on the internet site of an American news organisation but downloaded in Victoria is deemed to be published in Victoria. That principle would mean that an article published in The Australian could lead the newspaper and its company being taken to court for defamation in Malaysia of Singapore.
In particular, a cost-benefit analysis must question the implied assumption that what it seeks to protect from damage – the reputation of individuals – is something that ought to be the business of governments or judges. The common law has a proud history of establishing the private right to property. Laws that give people ownership rights and protection from theft or damage by others to their private property such as their housing or businesses of course forms the commercial basis of our society. It provides individuals with an incentive to invest in their own private property so they can reap wealth from it for the benefit of themselves and their children.
If property was theft and the commons were not enclosed, we would all be much poorer. I won’t put lots of time and effort into building a my house if I know that my neighbour is free to move in if he likes. The big mistake with defamation law is that it effectively assumes that people’s reputation or their honour or even feelings or self-worth is their private property that governments properly should protect from damage by others. Someone’s house is properly their own business. But someone’s reputation is more than their own business – it is part of the currency with which they use to deal with others. Reputations are more public than private in nature.
All of us judge the reputations of those with whom we vote into office, entrust our savings to, buy our food from, seek medication from, or trust to school or babysit our children. Everyone naturally seeks to promote their own public reputation – and many of the well-off and powerful who litigate for loss of reputation typically spend substantial resources, including public relations firms, on enhancing their image or on controlling what is written about them. That’s their right. But it is not in the public interest that these public reputations are put off limits to free and open debate.
Governments and the courts will never be useful regulators of reputation. Reputations can only be properly determined by the marketplace of public debate, not protected by haphazard government regulation and judicial enforcement. And the marketplace of public debate requires that the public is free to be informed and to speak out.
LET THE PEOPLE SPEAK FREELY
For many people, even some in the media industry, it is perhaps difficult to imagine deregulating free speech by abolishing defamation and instead relying on the marketplace of debate. Surely there must be some legal recourse for those whose reputations are damaged by inaccurate or malicious journalism, some will argue? Perhaps we can fashion a cost-effective legal remedy for extreme cases which removes many of the broader public costs of the current defamation laws. But, I would argue, these should be last resort and minimal. A free market in free speech would produce all the hubub we associate with most other markets. Some people’s reputations will be hurt, some unfairly, just as some people hurt themselves if they trip over a crack in the footpath. But we have seen what happens if the litigation industry and the courts are allowed free rein over trying to regulate such matters. By and large, a better system is simply to let the public decide the truth of the matter. Just because some claim is made about someone, that doesn’t mean that everyone believes it.
Surprisingly, I’ve found that some people known for leading the charge for less government intervention in people’s lives and more reliance on market forces don’t seem attracted to the idea of deregulating free speech and getting politicians and the courts out of the business of regulating people’s reputations. Perhaps they are mesmerised by the mystique of the common law. Progress in this area will require that true liberals be won over to the cause and aligned with those on the left, who should be attacking defamation law as a restriction on the public to be informed about the activities of the well-off and powerful. A constituency for deregulating free speech will not come from the legal profession, from politicians or from law reform commissions.
To work well, a free market in speech requires strong civic institutions that can gain the confidence of the public. The important development here is that, in a torrent of information provided by new information technology, the marketplace – the readers – are placing a greater premium on credibility as they seek effective means of being informed about their world. Building credibility and authority is clearly a commercial imperative for newspapers such as The Australian. If we are shown to act unethically, or to refuse to correct our errors, we will lose our credibility with readers and our bottom line will suffer. Most other media outlets also being affected by this increased demand for credible information and analysis.
For students and academic analysts of the media, one of the key tasks, I conclude, is to find ways in which media outlets can build their credibility in serving a vigorous culture of democratic free speech.
THE CRIKEY DEFAMATION LIST
Tony Abbott: successfully sued Random House over Bob Ellis’ book, Goodbye Jerusalem, which suggested he and Peter Costello had both slept with Costello’s wife Tanya Coleman, in a wicked Tory plot which succeeded in converting them to the Liberal Party. As if to prove only Ellis could indulge in such folly, Bob put up a sterling performance during the trial in the ACT Supreme Court, only serving to completely bury the publishers, who went for approximately eight grand a word. These 33 words cost the publisher $277,000: “Abbott and Costello…they’re both in the Right wing of the Labour Party till the one woman f*cked both of them and married one of them and inducted them into the Young Liberals”.
Sir Peter Abeles: Transport magnate who acquired his knighthood from Bob Askin over a hand of cards. Notorious for issuing various stopper writs against critics in the 1970s and 80s. Insulated himself against much media scrutiny by forging alliances with senior media and political figures: Bob Hawke called him his best friend, while Abeles ran Ansett as a joint venture with Rupert Murdoch, running the airline into the ground just in time for Air New Zealand to buy its carcass. His corrupt activities with the TWU and his connexions with the US mafia were virtually ignored by the mainstream media, partly because of his reputation for legal action. Check out this 1987 Four Corners report on Abeles by Paul Williams and Marian Wilkinson: http://www.vision.net.au/~apaterson/politics/4cnrs_abeles.htm
Piers Akerman: Rupert Murdoch’s best friend in Australia sued Fairfax over various articles during his disastrous stewardship of the Herald Sun in the early 90s. He has emailed to point out that nothing ever got to court. However, he also sued the journalists’ union back in his wild Adelaide days and secured a $20,000 settlement which former AJA state secretary Bill Rust described as “the greatest sell-out in the history of the union”. Piers isn’t into discrimination he’ll threaten to sue anyone. Including that well-read comrades’ journal Workers Online: Ackerman says he prints outs its weekly PiersWatch column and sends it to his lawyers. Find out more at: http://workers.labor.net.au/8/d_pierswatch_piers8.html David Marr’s Media Watch has recently focused on Ackerman’s very public anti-drugs stance. Piers is lock-step in line with John Howard’s Just Say No drug “policy” a couple of years back, Media Watch revealed that 10 of 17 paragraphs in a Piers piece on drugs were directly lifted from a press release from the PM’s office. But we’re not accusing you of plagiarism, Piers.
Col Allan: The Daily Telegraph’s editor settled “to my satisfaction” a defamation case against Austereo’s Andrew Denton who suggested a crime story was only on the front page because the accused was Korean. Col has made a career editing balanced newspapers, and never let racial, political or any other kind of intolerance get in the way of his desire to inform the public.
Kellie-Anne Allardice: she and another Cunnamulla teenager are suing film-maker Dennis O’Rourke for his damning doco of their wild west town.
Chris Anderson: The Optus CEO and former journalist sued The Australian’s business columnist Mark Westfield in the ACT Supreme Court in 1999. The Oz settled with a grovelling apology without telling Westfield.
Paul Anderson: The BHP CEO used Geoffrey Sher QC to sue The Australian and Mark Westfield for a column that said the “main reason” for the BHP-Billiton merger was because Anderson’s wife Kathy “detested” Australia and Australians. Ironically, it was Geoffrey Sher who helped The Australian beat Kennett’s action a couple of years back. The matter settled with a prominent above-the-fold apology to Anderson on the front of business a few weeks back.
Sir Robert Askin: NSW Premier for a decade from 1965. Widely rumoured he collected bribe money from corrupt police and organised crime. Cowed media outlets with threats of defamation. When Askin died in 1981, the National Times ran a front-page story: “Askin: friend to organised crime.” In Australia you can’t defame the dead.
Ian Baxter: this candidate for the board of the Brisbane Turf Club committee is currently suing deputy chairman John Hawkins for allegedly wrongly accusing him of distributing pornography.
Tony Bell: The CEO of 3AW’s parent Southern Cross Broadcasting isued Derryn Hinch for comments on 3AK suggesting they have exercised too much power in the Melbourne talk radio market. Southern Cross Broadcasting were last year joined as a co-plaintiff so presumably shareholders will be footing the legal bills. The case recently settled and we suspect that new 3AK director Jeff Kennett may have intervened to sort things out with his old friends at 3AW.
Vincenzo Bellino: The Sicilian sleaze mogul in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley sued Chris Masters and the ABC for 13 years after Four Corners’ The Moonlight State which ended up costing the ABC more than $600,000 to defend even though they won.
Noel Bishop: this NSW teacher got the Education Department to sue some of his students in 1998 for a three minute review that he claimed implied he had an extracurricular affair.
Joh Bjelke-Petersen: sued the ABC over allegations of corruption and rorts in his government. Sued Channel Nine and collected a $400,000 settlement from the station’s then owner Alan Bond which the dodgy entrepreneur said was to help him do business in Queensland. He also sued then opposition leader Tom Burns on numerous occasions and always used Ebsworths for his various other defo writs, totalling more than 20.
Neal Blewett: The former colourful Labor Health Minister owned a bong in the shape of a phallus, and successfully sued when a magazine said he was gay. Years later he came out and now lives with his gay lover in the Blue Mountains. Will he pay back the money, or has it all gone up in smoke?
Peter Blunden: Is Herald Sun boss Peter Blunden the most thin-skinned editor in Australia? He took out a Supreme Court writ against ABC Radio’s Jon Faine in 1999 but it was quickly withdrawn and he now does a weekly spot on his program.
Nick Bolkus: currently suing Crikey in the Adelaide District Court and also won a settlement from Channel Seven in the late 1980s after Dennis Grant went on Tonight Live with Steve Vizard and said that Bolkus was involved in a “punch-up” at a post-budget drinks. Cabinet made a decision to fund Bolkus’s action but the settlement was rumored to be about $40,000 plus costs so the taxpayer got their money back.
Alan Bond: Successfully sued the Sydney Morning Herald in the 1980s, setting back investigative pieces on him for many years until Paul Barry and Four Corners came along.
Michael Brander: the front man for racist group National Action failed in his defamation action against an Adelaide newspaper as the magistrate concluded he was a “racist of the worst kind”.
Bristile: the Perth-based tile and brick company is currently suing the Buddhist Society of WA in one of the more bizarre actions going around. Bob Carr is trying to ban companies from being able to sue for defo.
George Buschman: John Singleton’s 2GB chief executive sued sacked Drive Time presenter Mike Jeffreys for daring to criticise him publicly about a $530,000 unfair dismissal claim against the station. It was due to go to court on March 12 in Sydney but 2GB appeared to cave in and hand over a six-figure sum to Jeffreys.
Greg Butera: the Melbourne developer sued Bracks government minister Christine Campbell for alleging he’d tried to bribe her into supporting a development she opposed in Pascoe Vale. It settled pretty quickly.
Jim Byrnes: Alan Bond’s bankruptcy mate is currently suing the Sydney Morning Herald over a Kate Askew item in CBD. Good Weekend did him over good and proper recently so it is hard to believe he’ll get anything as his reputation is complete mud.
Jim Cairns: Gough Whitlam’s disastrous Treasurer and his secretary Junie Morosi sued The National Times over an article alleging they were each involved in an improper sexual relationship. They split up in the late ’80s and Cairns was last seen selling his self-published books at Camberwell market.
Arthur Calwell: the federal ALP leader in the 1960s sued The Sunday Review over an article that said Calwell was really a traditional conservative conducting a rearguard action against progressive socialist policies favoured by Whitlam.
Richard Carelton: The head-kicking 60 Minutes reporter is suing Media Watch over claims made last year that he pinched some footage. Carleton is looking very silly but it still has a few days to run. Producer Howard Sacre and executive producer John Westacott must also be regretting they have been dragged into the action.
Jim Carey: Sued PMP over an article in one of their Aussie trash sheets in 2000 but settled last year for a payout and a big apology.
Nick Carson: This legal partner at Allen Allen & Hemsley collected $500,000 in a settlement plus $310,000 in costs after a long battle against SMH editorial writer John Slee. The court had ordered $1.3 million in damages for claims the article suggested Carson engaged in professional misconduct and a criminal conspiracy.
Rodney Cavalier: The Moree Champion paid out $150,000 to the former NSW Labor Minister in 1989 for suggesting he committed sexual offences on children.
Justin Charles: We’re not sure how this defamation action brought by former Richmond footballer Justin Charles against Southern Cross Broadcasting’s 6PR finished up, as this link is just to a judgment on the Corrs attempt to get the action struck out. However, the text of actually what went to air makes for interesting reading and we’ll bring you the details of how it was resolved if we can find out. Click here.
Evonne Goolagong-Cawley: sued The Bulletin over a letter to the editor.
Jenny Chandler: the founding convenor of Save Albert Park sued Jeff Kennett for defamation over some Grand Prix comments and received a five figure settlement just before the 1999 state election.
Tom and Wendy Chapman: The Hindmarsh Bridge developers in Adelaide successfully sued Green Left Weekly for $110,000 but did they ever get paid? They also won a $150,000 payout from the Conservation Council. Then there is the Victor Harbor Times which handed over $166,300 and a further eight confidential settlements that have yielded $427,309. These people have made a lot of tax free money from defamation. Can anyone claim to have made more than them?
Greg Chappell: sued A Current Affair over threatening to repeat allegations in The Truth that he was having an affair and engaging in unusual sexual intercourse.
Anne Charleston and Ian Smith (who played Madge and Harold Bishop in Neighbours) sued The News of the World in the UK after it published a photo of a naked couple apparently engaged in sodomy, with the actors’ faces pasted onto it.
Ron Clarke: The Olympic champion sued the ABC’s 7.30 Report over a report which alleged he was building a sports complex on a toxic dump. He asked for a $75,000 settlement – which the ABC refused. Taxpayers must have been thanking Aunty’s brilliant legal team when a few months ago a Melbourne jury awarded him over $1 million.
John Coates: A chap called Dempster criticised the Olympics supremo twice in 1983 to two separate people suggesting he was unfit to be an Olympic rowing official because he gave priority to personal interest and ambition. The first publication was worth $58,000 and the second $62,000, then Coates got $35,173 in interest on top.
Peter Collins: The NSW Liberal lightweight sued a southern NSW doctor for comments when he was Health Minister.
Laurie Connell: Dodgiest merchant banker in history. Issued about 300 defo writs against various journalists but all failed because he was a crook who went broke.
Peter Costello: Successfully sued over Bob Ellis’s Goodbye Jerusalem.
Tanya Costello: Successfully sued over Bob Ellis’s Goodbye Jerusalem.
Joan Coxsedge: high profile Victorian ALP upper house member sued the Toorak Times in the 80s over a story that labelled her a traitor for revealing the home address of the ASIO boss. Toorak Times editor Jack Paccioli was a legendary Melbourne gutter publisher, who successfully avoided having to pay many of his legal losses by appointing his dog as publisher.
Noel Crichton-Browne: the former WA Liberal senator sued Senator Sue Knowles and had a $20,000 settlement in his favour.
Anna Cronin: Kennett’s chief of staff received the following apology after a vicious Glenn Milne column: “In an article published in The Australian on February 24, 1997 under the heading ‘Kennett’s new chief of staff raises hackles in party room’, Glenn Milne discussed the appointment of Ms Anna Cronin as chief of staff to the Premier of Victoria. The Australian and Glenn Milne apologise to Ms Cronin for the allegations contained in the article and for any offence or embarrassment she may have suffered as a result.”
Michael Danby: the Federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports successfully sued Channel 7, Sky News and Glenn Milne in 1998 for alleging he engaged in domestic violence. Will Houghton QC acted for Seven but never thought the matter would actually get to court.
John della Bosca: Labor’s Special Minister of State in NSW received about $20,000 recently after suing that wild paedophilia conspiracist Franca Arena.
Frank de Stefano: the jailed former Geelong mayor who defrauded $8 million sued some critics of Barwon Water and won a $10,000 settlement for some bumper stickers.
Jason Donovan: Sued London’s The Face magazine for suggesting he was gay.
John Elliott: sued the ABC and former Victorian Labor Minister Steve Crabb over claims the NCA was investigating him shortly before the 1990 federal election. He also sued Paul Keating but this settled in another famous Kirribilli pact that involved a FIRB decision.
Bob Ellis: Labor troublemaker-general. A life member in the defamation Hall of Fame. A walking, talking, litigation. This from ‘Goodbye Jerusalem”, 1987: “I sawJohn HowardCompletely out of placelike a burnt matchstick, empty of personality, of radiance, of possibility. I stared at him a long time, his plasticine complexion, his dull eyes, his cheaply augmented smile, or like that joke from 1948: An empty car pulled up, and Clement Atlee got out. That man, I thought, will never be Prime Minister.”
Ross Emerson: the controversial Test cricket umpire sued former Test player Dean Jones for saying he’d sullied Australia’s reputation during the chucking controversies a couple of years back involving Pakistan and Sri Lankan bowlers.
James Erskine sued Emma Tom and Fairfax for her pithy piece a few years back describing him as a hitman. Was said to have involved a large settlement but this didn’t stop The Australian hiring her on a big package.
Andrew Ettinghausen: The rugby league player sued Packer’s magazine HQ for imputing he’d deliberately permitted a photograph to be taken of his genitals, when the mag published a limp pic of some footy players in the shower after a match. Was awarded $350,000 at first then reduced to $100,000 on appeal but the total cost to the Packers including legal was about $2 million. ET was represented by Tom Hughes QC who had shortly earlier been dumped from his Packer retainer by Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap.
Syd Fischer: The yachtsman and colourful Sydney hotel owner got $200,000 in 1987 against Fairfax for suggesting he was incompetent and dishonourable regarding aspects of the America’s Cup challenge.
Ross Garnaut: the former Hawke adviser and ambassador to China sued Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot for some comments made about a trip to China where the Senator appeared to be more interested in furthering his gold mining interests. Our informant believes it cost Lightfoot $20,000.
Rocky Gattellari: the former boxer sued Reba Meagher, the state ALP member for Cabramatta, for five matters including that the MP misquoted extracts from his 1989 autobiography, The Rocky Road, in a press release she issued on February 2, 1995. The other matters related to subsequent interviews the MP conducted with Channel 10, the ABC and The Sun-Herald.
Kel Glare: the former Victorian Police Commissioner successfully sued Piers Akerman’s Herald Sun in the early 1990s in a case run brilliantly by Holding Redlich.
Allan Goldsworthy: the Sydney barrister used Stuart Littlemore when suing former 2UE presenter Ray Hadley.
John Gorton: the former Liberal Prime Minister sued the ABC over a This Day Tonight interview by Richard Carleton in which it was implied that Gorton had instructed Malcolm Fraser to issue a false denial of a story which he knew to be true.
David Gray: the former Labor MP for Syndal in the Victorian Parliament sued The Sun News Pictorial but lost and was ordered to pay the costs of the five -day hearing after the judge said it was a fair report of Jeff Kennett’s claims in Parliament that Mr Gray was involved in the preparation and distribution of bogus Nuclear Disarmament Party how-to-vote cards at the 1985 Nunawading by-election.
Brian Gray: The late airline entrepreneur threatened to sue The Age for $1 million more than 10 years ago for reporting that he lost a large amount of money running EastWest airlines and questioning his financial skills to run his new start-up operation Compass Airlines. The Age’s editorial manager Peter McLaughlin cravenly caved in to Gray and published an apology without the knowledge of the reporter, Crikey’s own Hugo Kelly. No money changed hands. Gray never sued, although he had plenty of time on his hands after Compass went bust due largely to his financial incompetence.
Bill Gurry: The Melbourne investment banker sued former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale when he incorrectly alleged Gurry was mates with John Cain and should not serve on the Tricontinental Royal Commission.
Joe Gutnick: Is currently suing the US Magazine Barons in the Victorian Supreme Court over an article suggesting he had links with convicted tax scheme merchant Nachum Goldberg.
Pauline Hanson: Sued the ABC when Triple J played the Pauline Pantsdown song, ‘I’m a backdoor man’? It accused her of being a homosexual and a generally unsavoury character and the court ordered that it not be played again.
Bill Harrigan: The best known rugby league referee sued Alan Jones, Australia’s most sued broadcaster, for suggesting some of his decisions were bad and collected a $90,000 payout last year.
Bob Hawke: Has sued most outlets over the years and reputedly received truckloads in payouts which built various pools, tennis courts and new wings in his homes. But can anyone actually name a journalist who went down to Hawkie? Were all his hard-won legal victories ex-gratia payments?
Ces Hesse: the former Detective-Sergeant and One Nation candidate for the federal seat of Chisholm won $40,000 damages from Steve Price in the Magistrate’s Court after the then-3AW jock said the following after the WA election: “Watch the parasites now come out of the woodwork – the whingeing, whining loonies we exposed last time, the gun nuts, the no-hopers, the Johns of Brighton and Ces Hesses of this world.” The highest possible defo payout in the Magistrates Court is: $40,000.
Judith Hornberg: this mother of a quadriplegic woman was arrested and charged with criminal defamation by the Queensland police after posting transcripts of a compensation court case on a community bulletin board. The matter is now being mediated and the Criminal Justice Commission has become involved.
Jeff Jarratt: the former NSW deputy police commissioner just picked up $420,000 from the Sydney Morning Herald after the NSW Supreme Court found the paper had defamed him over his role in Motorola picking up a big police communications contract.
Elton John: Okay, there is no Australian connection, accept that Rupert had to shell out the one million quid and Elton was in Australia having throat surgery at the time in 1987 when the London Sun splashed with “Elton in Vice Boy Scandal”. Despite receiving the first writ the following day the follow-up splash was “Elton’s Kinky Kinks” followed by “You’re a Liar Elton” on day three. A few months later the splash was: “Sorry Elton” and Rupert gave then editor Kelvin McKenzie one of his biggest bollockings for the one million pound settlement.
Alan Jones: Very litigious over the years and currently running various actions against The Sydney Morning Herald.
Ron Joseph: Footy player agent and power broker settled with Triple M recently after a Dermott Brereton spray about him being a dodgy real estate agent.
Paul Keating: sued former Liberal MP and Howard mate Michael Baume for inaccurately claiming his piggery had claimed a tax break but withdrew the action when Baume’s lawyers claimed he had terminal cancer. Baume is now alive and well and still kicking Keating.
Jeff Kennett: Issued lots of writs including against The Age, The Australian and Packer’s Nine Network, which yielded a $400,000 settlement. He also sued then Victorian opposition leader John Brumby and another Labor critic David White. Famously came undone when he lost a defo case against the Australian in 1999.
Duncan Kerr: Labor’s wandering minstrel loves to threaten defamation. The curious case of the fearless fisherman is a good example. In the late 1970s, fisherman Mick Skrijel spoke out about drug-running in South Australia. Afterwards, he and his family suffered a series of attacks. The NCA investigated Skrijel’s allegations but in 1985 ended up charging him for various offences. Skrijel went to jail but was later freed and his sentence set aside. In 1993, the federal government asked David Quick QC to review the case; Quick recommended calling a royal commission into the NCA, but Duncan Kerr, federal Minister for Justice, declined to do so. Skrijel prepared a leaflet about the issue and distributed it in Kerr’s electorate in Tasmania during the 1996 federal election campaign. Kerr wrote to the Tasmanian media threatening to sue any media outlet that repeated Skrijel’s “false and defamatory allegations.” The story was reported in the Financial Review but the Tasmanian media kept quiet.
David Lange: The former NZ prime Minister sued the ABC over a Four Corners report which led to a watering down of the political comment defence established in Theophanous.
John Laws: the 2UE cash-for-commenter collected $210,000 from Fairfax from a jury in 1983 which agreed an article suggested that he fraudulently benefited from land deals.
Solomon Lew: Sued the Herald Sun over a front page article detailing an alleged inside job where someone broke into the so-called “Yannon room” at ASIC. Settled with nominal payout and an apology after a couple of years.
Clive Lloyd: The former West Indian captain collected $100,000 from The Age in 1984 after a stringer wrote a column under the headline “C’mon Dollar C’mon” suggesting World Series Cricket games were fixed. All his team mates lined up for big settlement after the jury decision was upheld by the Privy Council in London.
John Marsden: former head of the NSW Law Society successfully sued Seven over a Witness and Today Tonight report alleging sexual encounters with underage boys. Faced with an $18 million legal bill after Australia’s longest defamation battle, Seven have vowed to appeal.
Glyn May: the Brisbane freelance journalist sued Media Watch and received a written apology from Jonathon Shier and an on air apology earlier this year. May had written travel articles plugging the airline he worked as a consultant for. But the newspaper involved conceded it knew of the conflict of interest and should have revealed the fact to its readers.
Tony McAdam: the hard hitting former Melbourne columnist sued former Victorian Labor MLC Joan Coxsedge for calling him a “CIA agent” and a “man with an invented past”. Kroger and Kroger were the solicitors and Peter Costello did some of the barrister work as Cexsedge finally paid up in a settlement after six years.
Ronald McDonald: The Burger outlet made clowns of themselves when they took on a gardener and a postman who had produced a leaflet critical of McDonald’s. Helen Steel and Dave Morris, members of London Greenpeace, defended themselves. Using the defamation trial to generate publicity, their leaflet has reached a far greater audience than would have been possible otherwise. The classic stopper writ gone wrong and a public relations disaster for McDonald’s, not least when a High Court judge ruled that Maccas ‘exploit children’ with their ‘misleading’ advertising, are ‘culpably responsible’ for cruelty to animals, are ‘antipathetic’ to unions and pay their workers low wages. Check out this link.
Eddie McGuire: The prolific but sensitive Herald Sun columnist and multi-media personality sued The Age over a column that called him a “hopelessly conflicted tabloid muckraker”. The Age settled a few months back and Eddie is telling people he had a big win. He also threatened to sue footy commentator Stephen Rowe of Adelaide 5AA who falsely alleged the Pies had bribed an umpire in a bid to clear Nathan Buckley of a striking charge. Rowe and the station later apologised as part of an out-of-court settlement with the club. Eddie also bared his litigious teeth against “stupid” comments by former SA footballer and 5AA commentator Graham Cornes. “He (Cornes) has to be just a little bit careful starting to make further insinuations about the Collingwood Football Club or me as a person or Channel Nine as a broadcaster because these baseless allegations are not going to be tolerated,” McGuire said. [As Dennis Commetti would say, “ominous signs”.]
Ian McPhee: used his own law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth to sue former CASA chairman Dick Smith for bagging the McPhee approach to aviation safety.
Neil Mitchell and Peter Couchman: the 3AW egotist and former 3LO breakfast rival got into a spat back in 1997 when Mitchell said ABC staff were “fat cats who walked around eating yoghurt and drinking light ales”. The legal action started after Couchman counselled his audience that “you can’t believe what a gung-ho radio jock (Mitchell) tells his listener”. That came after Mitchell unethically broadcast the contents of an ABC envelope delivered by mistake to 3AW.
Demi Moore and Bruce Willis sued New Idea over allegations of trouble in their relationship. The matter promptly settled with an apology by No Idea to “Gimme” and Bruce. We gather their marriage is still as solid as ever (Err, shurely some mistake? Ed)
Mt Druitt school children successfully sued The Daily Telegraph for its front page picture and story: “The Class We Failed” which Col Allan subsequently entered in the Walkleys.
Chris Murphy: The Sydney criminal lawyer turned stockmarket punter recently settled with The Daily Telegraph over an inoffensive gossip column item largely written by Lachlan Johnston but carrying Stephen Mayne’s by-line that compared him with his namesake who owns 2SM and used to manage INXS. Murphy has also sued an internet chatroom.
Murray Nichol: The former 3AW Drive and Morning presenter successfully sued his old station and Steve Price for describing him on air as a “dill”.
Eddie Obeid: The NSW Labor Minister has sued various partners and critics for defamation and other things over the years.
Neil Ohlsson: A former business partner of Kerry Packer and Malcolm Edwards who sued over Paul Barry’s Packer book but settled when slight changes were agreed.
Pat O’Shane: The NSW Aboriginal magistrate successfully sued the SMH over a 1999 article headlined “Extreme views from the bench”, which the jury found defamed her on eight points, implying she was biased, incompetent and had undermined the judicial system in her role as a magistrate.
Michael O’Sullivan: the QC sued Richard Ackland personally for something which appeared in his legal newsletter Justinian in the 1980s. The case ran for almost three weeks in the Victorian Supreme Court but Justice Brooking awarded nominal damages and massive costs against Ackland who suffered personally as a result.
Kerry Packer: Sued truckloads of people over the years and is currently running actions against Four Corners and Fairfax.
David Parker: The former NRMA director collected $135,000 from 2UE in 1983 when they suggested he was a disastrously unsuitable candidate for election to the board.
Charles Perkins: Successfully sued the Aboriginal Land Council for almost $1 million after they suggested he had tried to destroy them.
Dr Kerryn Phelps: Sued red wine lover Michael Wooldridge for refusing to apologise after suggesting she had no medical qualifications but then withdrew it after a long lunch and an apology for the good Doctor Minister.
Steve Price: Collected $50,000 in a settlement from Crikey Media and Stephen Mayne personally over a press release by Raymond Hoser that was downloaded by 340 different people. Mayne had not read the offending text, which was removed as soon as a complaint was lodged but subsequent publications would likely have blown out the damages if it went to trial.
Brian Quinn: The corrupt former Coles Myer boss sued The Age over a Katherine Teh article that suggested he sold some shares shortly before announcing a big profit slump at the 1991 AGM. The slump was announced a few weeks earlier at the profit result so Quinn got a big payout that helped pay for his renovations.
Mike Rann: the South Australian Opposition Leader sued Premier John Olsen for calling him a liar at an impromptu news conference in a public place in 1997, in response to Mr Rann’s assertion before a federal parliamentary committee, and therefore under privilege, that Mr Olsen had been a source of material leaked to the Labor Party to damage former premier – and Mr Olsen’s factional rival – Dean Brown. Olsen is counter-suing.
Gina Rinehart: Sued Channel Seven Perth which claimed she had failed to contribute money to a medical cause and received a quickfire $100,000 settlement when Seven’s doctor source changed his story.
Rene Rivkin: The colourful Sydney stockbroker failed is his writ against the Sydney Morning Herald and the Fin Review over the Christmas Eve fire and $50 million insurance claim involving Offset Alpine and the death of the girlfriend of Rivkin’s former driver Gordon Woods. He is also suing Seven’s Witness program over a Caroline Byrne story and is suing The Australian over a story after ASIC slapped enforceable undertakings on him for doing the opposite of his share tips.
Ray Robinson: The Aboriginal leader is currently suing 2UE’s John Laws whose second defence has just been rejected by the court. He’s also just launched three writs against the Courier Mail over allegations he had improperly received a $48,000 taxpayer-funded discount on a house he bought from the housing company he chairs. Robinson claimed that “the only real question to be determined will be the extent of damages” but the Courier followed up with reports of Robinson wrongly co-signing cheques for which he had no authority which were cashed at two Brisbane pubs.
Roger Rogerson: The corrupt NSW detective got $30,000 out of Channel Nine after suing over the famous Sally-Anne Huckstep interview on 60 Minutes when she accused him of murdering her drug dealing boyfriend Warren Lafranchi.
Michael Roux: The former WorkCover boss in Victoria sued the ABC in a case that cost $2 million and lasted for a record 69 days but was eventually settled with two apologies that were read out in court and at the beginning of The 7.30 Report.
Leo Schofield: Leo was on the receiving end of a couple of writs as a food critic for Fairfax. There was the famous lobster case which is said to have cost Fairfax $150,000 and the manager, supervisor and waitress of Roberts seafood cafe sued over his review referring to “the soap addict smoking couch potato” and dive-bombing pink lorikeets. Maurice Neild QC, emboldened by his success in the Lobster Case, approached the Roberts people on seeing an equally tough review from Leo but it was settled on a technicality.
Harry Seidler: sued Patrick Cook over a Cook cartoon captioned along the lines of “The Harry Seidler Memorial Retirement Village”, which showed a box with food being shovelled in one end and shit out the other. Harry did not win and the judge and jury were most amused.
Doug Shave: The former Court Government Consumer Affairs Minister in WA is suing his replacement from the ALP, Jim McGinty and The West Australian for things they’ve said about his gross inaction on the finance brokers scandal as it unfolded over the past couple of years.
Sonia Shepherd: this 31 year old Hervey Bay mother has just collected $120,000 in damages after she sued a national magazine for publishing a nude photograph of her without permission.
Theodore Skalkos: This Marrickville Greek newspaper proprietor was charged $300,000 by Stuart Littlemore QC to run a 35 day defamation trial that failed miserably.
Mick Skrijel: the Victorian whistleblower campaigned against the NCA and drug trafficking and sued former Federal Justice Minister Duncan Kerr for defamation. He received a substantial but confidential settlement that was generously funded by the taxpayer.
Richard Sleeman: the then producer of Derryn Hinch on 2GB is rumored to have collected $300,000 from the ABC when Stuart Littlemore and Media Watch wrongly claimed he pretended to be a grieving relative to get on a flight to Hobart after the Port Arthur massacre.
Ian Smith (former Victorian Minister for Finance) sued Cheryl Harris (a staffer who became pregnant to him) using Slater & Gordon over a wide range of allegations by Harris including that Smith had bashed her and tried to force her to have an abortion.
Barry Stewart: the CEO of the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation was awarded $115,000 by a jury after an expensive three week trial for comments on the old 3LO by Peter Couchman and others. Channel Seven were wise enough to settle early for broadcasting similar comments.
Marie Tehan: The former Victorian Health Minister sued The Age when the Kennett forces were trying to maximise the pressure on then editor Bruce Guthrie. The flurry of writs worked as Guthrie was soon sacked.
Andrew Theophanous: sued the Herald Sun over a Bruce Ruxton letter which became the basis of the political comment defence when Murdoch won in the High Court. Theophanous subsequently lost his seat of Calwell when he ran as an independent after being disendorsed by Labor when charged with running an immigration racket. His recent conviction for corruption laid bare his past as a corrupt factional warlord who used his political position to obtain money and sex for illegal acts. Will he be the last Greek-Australian Labor MP revealed to be a shady character?
John Tingle: Laura Tingle’s dad and Shooters Party MP in NSW John Tingle got $75,000 from 2GB for a sledge from idiot shock jock Ron Casey. The same Casey got himself in trouble a few years back for attacking Nokia as an “Asian” company taking away Australian jobs in the technology sector.
Malcolm Turnbull: Merchant banker and Liberal PM-in-waiting recently settled with the Fin Review in the ACT Supreme Court over an Andrew Main piece which called him “part polymath, part sociopath”. Malcolm also sued Richard Ackland in 1980 over a piece in the SMH involving his girlfriend’s cat that settled out of court.
Tom Uren, a senior Left ALP Minister in the 1960s and 1970s, sued the Sun-Herald over allegations he was duped into assisting Soviet spies in the early 1960s.
Various Idiots: Defamation is a perfect vehicle for loonies to pursue their mad vendettas. The man accused of stalking Nicole Kidman last month filed a defamation suit against her and various media organisations. Kidman was granted a restraining order against LA loony Matthew Hooker last year. Hooker brought the $200m lawsuit because he believes he has been defamed by Kidman and several media outlets (including the New York Daily News, 20th Century Fox, Miramax, the Guardian, but not Crikey – yet) who he feels have branded him a stalker.
Angelo Vasta: the disgraced Bjelke-Petersen appointed judge effectively closed down Robbie Swan’s magazine Mathilda with a successful defamation action a couple of decades back. His son ran for the Libs against Kevin Rudd in this federal election and suffered a five per cent swing against him.
La Familia Versace: the celebrity designer family successfully sued dodgy Harbour City Sydney private eye Frank Monte in a sensational Sydney trial over his book, which claimed the late Gianni was a Mafia baron.
Ron Walker: has sued various people over the years including the head of the Historic Buildings Council and journalists such as Julianne Davies on The Age.
WA Police Union: In the mid-80s the Police association introduced a levy on its members to fund dozens of legal actions against the author, distributor and retailers of a book revealing police corruption. Written by Avon Lovell, The Mickelberg Stitch argued that the prosecution case against Ray, Peter and Brian Mickelberg – convicted for swindling gold from the Perth Mint – was based on questionable evidence. Police threatened to sue the book’s distributor and any bookseller or other business offering it for sale. The defamation threats quashed any general availability of the book. Over a decade later, none of the suits against Lovell had reached trial, but remained active despite repeated attempts to strike them out for lack of prosecution.
Shane Warne: hired a media monitoring company and is running “a few” defamation actions at the moment. The Herald Sun recently settled one on the steps of court after running a page one story accusing him of match fixing. The settlement is rumoured to have cost Peter Blunden’s paper anything from $80,000 to $280,000.
The Waterhouse family (Bill, Robbie and Gai) have variously sued the ABC, 2GB and The Sunday Herald Sun. Bill and Robbie were warned off racecourses for 10 years after authorities ruled they knew in advance of the Fine Cotton race-fix. No inventive journo could have made up Robbie’s latest scam, in which he gave a mate odds of 500-1 on race favourites and for which he has (again) been thrown off racecourses by stewards. He is appealing, pleading (again) his innocence.
Kathy Watt sued The Herald Sun and The Advertiser over allegations that she deliberately shafted Lucy Tyler-Sharman for a place in the 1996 Australian Olympics team. She also sued Channel Nine in 1997 and the court was told she was “a little tart” for urinating in public and sledging competitors.
Robbie Waterhouse: This colourful Sydney racing identity can’t seem to keep out of the courts. He sued Four Corners reporter Tony Jones and Executive Producer Peter Manning after the widely acclaimed story “Running Racing” in the 1980s.
Tony Webster: Owner of Webster Publishing sued Stephen Mayne, David Ireland and Crikey Media over an article downloaded 178 times. Infosentials bought the business but has since gone broke with creditors likely to lose about $7 million. The case settled a few months back.
Mark Westfield: the most sued business journo in Australia sued a Manly councillor about what was said in the chamber but it was thrown out by the jury after more than a day of evidence and about five hours of deliberation. The councillor in question counter-sued Westfield over remarks he made about her in a letter to the Manly mayor but withdrew her action after he lost his case against her.
Paul Whelan: The former NSW Police Minister who managed to run a profitable and expansive hotel and gambling empire while operating the police ministry is suing the Sydney Morning Herald over something or other. What a goose.
Nick Whitlam: Very litigious and currently suing the Sunday program for a John Lyons piece earlier this year that was celebrated in the recent 20th anniversary program. Also sued and settled with 2GB and his former PR consultant.
Lloyd Williams: Another regular litigant who sued Melbourne University Architecture academic Miles Lewis, former Labor Minister David White, The Age and various other parties.
Neville Wran: Sued the ABC in the early 80s over allegations he attempted to interfere with the natural course of justice.
Ellen Wren: the wife of John Wren, a multi-millionaire businessman and power broker in the Australian Labor Party had 34 year old author Frank Hardy arrested and charged with criminal libel over his book Power Without Glory.
Nick Xenophon: the no-pokies South Australiam MP sued state Treasurer Rob Lucas and collected a $20,000 taxpayer funded settlement last year.
Please email through any corrections or additions.