A sign of things to come? Shut out of the great defamation racket by last year’s reforms, corporates are looking at using the Trade Practices Act to try and achieve the same end: retribution against critics.

Or so it would seem from this story in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald:

In what is believed to be a world first, David Jones begins a legal case tomorrow in which it is suing the left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute and its executive director, Clive Hamilton, over claims the giant retailer’s advertising er-ticised and s-xually exploited children.

The case, in the Federal Court in Sydney, is thought to be the first time a court will consider the s-xualisation of children in advertising.

The retailer is suing under the Trade Practices Act, claiming the institute engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. The avenue of suing for defamation was closed to big companies after the introduction of uniform defamation laws in January 2006.

The case stems from a media release in October titled “Corporate paedophilia – s-xualising children by advertising and marketing”, which announced the launching of a discussion paper. The release named retail chains such as David Jones and Myer as having “jumped on the bandwagon” in er-ticising children in the interests of the bottom line.

It said: “When family department stores show no conscience on these issues, or are inured to the effects of their behaviour, the situation is very unhealthy.”

But the chief executive of David Jones, Mark McInnes, has said the institute accused it of “something that we regard as abhorrent. We will not be used by them to further their agenda.”

Which is a fair enough point from the DJs boss. To the best of my knowledge, Myer hasn’t tried this tack.

Peter Fray

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