Ever wanted to know the sorts of people who rush off to the Supreme
Court claiming they were defamed. Well, for the first time in
Australian history, Crikey is building up a register of high profile
people who have lodged a writ claiming damages for something someone
said about them.
If you know of any other memorable cases that
should be on the register then please send them in. Also, let us know
of any errors in the register.
Australia has eight difference sets of defamation laws and no
constitutional right to free speech as the Americans enjoy. Free Speech
Victoria is currently embarking on a campaign for defamation law reform
but for some reason the issue is rarely debated in any detail in the
public arena. Maybe everyone is too scared of getting sued.
Subscribers can look at the various other lists we have built up
over the past year by searching through the archive at
Crikey’s register of defamation battles
Tony Abbott: successfully sued over Bob Ellis’s Goodbye Jerusalem which suggested he and Peter Costello had slept with each other’s wives.
Sir Peter Abeles: Notorious for issuing various stopper writs against critics in the 1970s and 80s.
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.
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
Chris Anderson: The Optus CEO and former
journalist sued The Australian’s columnist Mark Westfield in the ACT
Supreme Court in 1999. The Oz settled with a grovelling apology without
Tony Bell: The CEO of 3AW’s parent Southern Cross
Broadcasting sued Derryn Hinch for comments on 3AK suggesting they have
exercised too much power in the Melbourne talk radio market.
Joh Bjelke-Petersen: sued the ABC over allegations
of corruption and rorts in his government. Sued Channel Nine and
collected a $400,000 settlement 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.
Neil Blewett: The former Labor Health Minister
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?
Peter Blunden: The Herald Sun editor took out a Supreme Court writ against ABC Radio’s Jon Faine in 1999 but it was quickly withdrawn.
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.
George Buschman: John Singleton’s 2GB chief executive is suing
sacked Drive Time presenter Mike Jeffreys for daring to criticise him
publicly about a $530,000 unfair dismissal claim against the station.
Jim Byrnes: Alan Bond’s bankruptcy mate is currently suing the
Sydney Morning Herald over a Kate Askew article column item in CBD.
Jim Cairns (Treasurer in the Whitlam government) and Junie Morosi
(his personal secretary and assistant) sued The National Times over an
article alleging they were each involved in an improper sexual
Arthur Calwell (leader of the ALP in the 1960s) sued The Sunday
Review over an article that Calwell was really a traditional
conservative conducting a rearguard action against progressive
socialist policies favoured by Whitlam.
Richard Carlton: The head-kicking 60 Minutes Reporter is suing
Media Watch over claims made last year that he pinched some footage.
Jim Carey: Currently suing PMP over an article in one of their Aussie trash sheets.
Mr 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.
Evonne Cawley/Goolagong sued The Bulletin over a letter to the editor.
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.
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 becaues 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.
John dela Bosca: Labor’s Special Minister of State in NSW received
about $20,000 recently after suing that wild paedophilia conspiracist
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 Donovon: 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.
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. Was awarded $350,000 at first then reduced to
$100,000 on appeal.
Murray Farquhar: The former NSW legal heavyweight sued Four Corners over the same program that so upset Neville Wran.
Syd Fischer: The yachtsman and 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.
Kel Glare: former Victorian Police Commissioner Kel Glare successfully sued Piers Akerman’s Herald Sun in the early 1990s.
John Gorton (former 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.
Bill Gurry: The highly respected 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.
Bob Hawke: Has sued most outlets over the years and received
truckloads in payouts which built various pools, tennis courts and new
wings in his homes.
Alan Jones: Very litigious over the years and currently running various actions against The Sydney Morning Herald.
Anne Keating: Paul’s sister is suing the Daily Telegraph’s Piers
Akerman and a jury has just found 4 of her 14 complaints defamatory.
Jeff Kennett: Issued dozens of writs including against The Age,
The Australian and Packer’s Nine Network which yielded a $400,000
David Lange: The former NZ prime Minister sued the ABC which led
to a slight watering down of the political comment precedent
established in Theophanous.
John Laws: the 2UE cash for commenter collected $210,000 from
Fairfax from a jury in 1983 which agreed the 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 after a couple of
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 Bar Association is suing
Seven over a Witness report about alleged encounters with teenage boys.
Demi Moore and Bruce Willis sued New Idea over allegations of
trouble in their relationship. The matter promptly settled with an
Chris Murphy: The Sydney criminal lawyer turned stockmarket punter
is suing The Daily Telegraph over a gossip column item carrying Stephen
Mayne’s by-line that compared him with his namesake who owns 2SM and
used to manage INXS.
Eddie Obeid: The NSW Labor Minister has sued various partners and critics for defamation and other things over the years.
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.
Steve Price: Suing Crikey and Stephen Mayne personally over a
press release by Raymond Hoser that was read by less than 200 people
and downloaded by 340 different people.
Brian Quinn: The disgraced 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.
Rene Rivkin: The colorful Sydney stockbroker is suing 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. The case starts in
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.
Abe Saffron: the famous Kings Cross strongman sued the Daily Mirror in the 80s.
Ian Smith (former Victorian Minister for Finance) sued Cheryl
Harris (a staffer who became pregnant to him) and Slater & Gordon
over a wide range of allegations, including allegations by Harris that
Smith had bashed her and tried to force her to have an abortion.
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
Andrew Theophanous: Sued the Herald Sun over a Bruce Ruxton which
became the basis of the political comment defence when Murdoch won in
the High Court.
Tom Uren, a senior member of the ALP in the 1960s and 1970s, sued
the Sun-Herald over allegations he was duped into assisting Soviet
spies in the early 1960s.
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.
The Waterhouse family (Bill, Robbie and Gai) have variously sued the ABC, 2GB and The Sunday Herald Sun.
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.
Tony Webster: Owner of Webster Publishing is suing 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.
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.