The Australian’s Michael West has
been on the wagon for three years and has a young baby, so he wasn’t up
for one of his vintage big celebrations last night. But revenge against
Macquarie Bank was still sweet after he won the 2005 Walkley for business journalism.

Former
Bob Carr and News Ltd spinner Kris Neil was on hand to see West’s
triumph and will no doubt be briefing her current bosses at Macquarie
this morning about the evening as they press on with their hard-hitting
defamation battle against The Australian in the NSW Supreme Court.

In
a lovely twist, the business Walkley was sponsored by Macquarie’s great
rival JP Morgan, which had a large ad in the Walkley Magazine
congratulating “Michael West and The Australian business team.”

“As
one of the world’s leading investment banks and proud sponsor of the
Walkley Awards, we appreciate outstanding performance,” said JP
Morgan’s ad.

And how funny that Macquarie sponsored Crikey’s business Walkley
way back in 1999 – which was the beginning of a big run for News Ltd as
it has taken the business gong in 4 of the last 6 years.

Macquarie
Bank certainly hasn’t appreciated West’s effort to exposure its
questionable dealings in Allstate Exploration’s Beaconsfield goldmine
in Tasmania. This is what the judges said:

“The story focused on
a deal agreed to by the mine’s creditors for Macquarie Bank to pay
$300,000 for $77.5 million of the miner’s intercompany debts – giving
it first rights to Allstate’s profits from its share of the
Beaconsfield gold mine near Launceston. The investigation was critical
of the extent of information said to have been made available to
unsecured creditors, on the mines prospects and on the circumstances
that lead to the choice of administrator. Macquarie denies any
wrongdoing and it has brought a defamation suit against The Australian for one of the stories, The Mine Shaft.”

Has
there been another Walkley award winning story which you can’t view in
the News Ltd archive due to a defamation suit? The big question is
whether the judges actually took a look at Macquarie’s complaint and
whether the writ worked in favour or against West. It seems the
substance of West’s campaign is right and Macquarie is only contesting
some of the detail.

One
judge told Crikey that it worked in the
paper’s favour, particularly because of the courage shown by
editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell to keep pushing with the story after
Macquarie has
issued what it hoped would be a classic stopper writ.

So there you have it. The effect of Macquarie’s heavy-handed response was to generate more stories in The Australian and a Walkley award to boot. Maybe they should learn to occasionally take a backward step.