Dear TTF Australia Members

Some of you might remember a recent email from my TTF Chairman, Les Cassar AM, that outlined legal proceedings I had launched personally in the NSW Supreme Court again John Fairfax Ltd — following a malicious and defamatory attack on me, my wife and children, written by Ms Annette Sharp in the Sun Herald in January.

I am delighted to report to you that via the professional assistance of Solicitor, Mark O’Brien of TTF Member firm, Gilbert + Tobin, the Supreme Court has this week issued a court-ordered judgment in my favour against John Fairfax Ltd, including a significant cash settlement for damages, plus full legal costs.

Despite there being no confidentiality clause within the judgment, nor Fairfax offering any published apology, I have no desire to prolong this matter nor provide any more oxygen to this grubby and lazy piece of gutter journalism. To this end, I will not be issuing a press release to claim victory, restore my reputation nor reveal the details of the settlement.

However, I am happy to report confidentially to TTF Members, that Jo and I are very happy with the substantial settlement, notwithstanding the fact that Fairfax has refused to print a retraction, despite acknowledging their error privately. Perhaps naively, we hope that this very expensive lesson for the Sun Herald will lead to greater adherence to simple editorial norms, such as checking facts and questioning ‘anonymous sources’.

(It is appropriate here to mention that many friends in the media, including from within Fairfax, have contacted me to offer their support and distance themselves from this type of sloppy journalism, which they see as a stain on their profession.)

It would be nice to think that the pain we had to endure as a family through this whole episode (and the financial and professional damage it has now caused to Fairfax) might go some way toward protecting innocent people from similar experiences in the future.

It is a sad fact that having proudly served this organisation for over 15 years, my role as TTF media spokesman has obviously given a few journalists cause for thinking that I was in some way a ‘public figure’ who deserved to be attacked. I have worked assiduously for my Members over this time to prosecute a positive media agenda to lobby for good public policy outcomes in tourism, transport & infrastructure, and have never been tempted to use this position, nor my family, for personal or political advancement.

That the story was completely false, that the obvious mistaken identity could have been cleared up with a simple phone call, that it brought my two young boys into unwanted media spotlight and that it caused significant distress to my wife, children and extended family, just made the whole story more distasteful ….. and the legal victory more satisfying!

I sincerely thank all those Members and colleagues who took the time to reach out to Johanne and I recently. It was an outrageous personal attack but the support of friends, Members, my staff and Board helped me realise that true mates don’t believe the rubbish made up in gossip columns. Thank you for helping to sustain us through this difficult period.

Christopher Brown
Managing Director & CEO

Crikey: Check out our list of Australian defamation battles here: http://www.crikey.com.au/articles/2002/12/26-defolist.html