I’ve had a few run-ins with the defamation laws during my 50 years in journalism from the frivolous. Like when I was writing for that long-gone magazine Footy Fan and said that a footballer known as Punchy Kelleher had lived up to his nickname, to the more serious where being plain wrong once about Jeff Kennett proved painfully expensive.
Yet as I think back about my own experiences, and those of my peers, involving politicians there is one thing that stands out: I can not think of an instance when a political career actually suffered as the result of some wrong and bad thing said or written about a politician.
So it was that I read with some approval the remarks of Liberal MP Christopher Pyne in The Good Weekend cover story by Jane Cadzow, on Saturday that he was not the least bit worried about some very catty remarks by Marieke Hardy in an article published on the ABC’s The Drum website.
“Pyne is adamant the article didn’t bother him. ‘Not in the least bit,’ he says. ‘I don’t take these things personally . . . I assumed it was a spoof . . . there’s no point getting too fussed about it’.”
At last a politician, I thought, that was not going to follow the Bob Hawke example from years ago of jumping on every opportunity to add a new wing to his Melbourne family home at the expense of a media proprietor. But no. I was wrong.
This morning came the news courtesy of Caroline Overington in The Australian that legal action was afoot. The ABC has received letters from Mr Pyne’s lawyers reserving his right to sue unless a settlement is reached.
A funny thing to do when you are not too fussed.