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Dec 3, 2012

Kroger defo case revives stories of Abbott’s uni past

Back when Barbara Ramjan told the media that Tony Abbott punched the wall next to her head in 1977, key Liberal figure Michael Kroger accused her of lying. Ramjan's now suing Kroger for defamation.

Margot Saville — <em>Crikey</em> Sydney reporter

Margot Saville

Crikey Sydney reporter

When former Liberal Party powerbroker Michael Kroger went on the record four months ago, branding Barbara Ramjan a serial liar, he could not have picked a worse target. If the first rule of defamation is “don’t slag off a lawyer”, then the second rule should be “don’t criticise a judge’s wife”.

Ramjan, of course, is the woman who leapt into the headlines in September after telling writer David Marr that after she defeated Tony Abbott to become president of the Students Representative Council at Sydney Uni in 1977, Abbott stood in front of her, raised his fist and punched the wall either side of her head. Abbott has denied this claim.

Arguments about this raged for weeks, with everyone who was at Sydney Uni at the time weighing in, either for or against. Kroger then made statements to The Australian newspaper implying she was lying, and to Alan Jones on his 2GB breakfast program. Jones was contacted by mutual friends after the broadcast, pointing out Ramjan has a PhD, works tirelessly for the underprivileged in her capacity as a social worker and is married to one of the country’s most distinguished lawyers, Greg James QC. James has recently retired from the NSW Supreme Court and has returned to the Sydney bar.

Jones’ apology the next day, unprompted by legal threats, was comprehensive:

“Barbara Ramjan is a person of high distinction having been awarded a D. Phil from Sydney Uni and she is married to a Supreme Court judge. Ramjan has spent years avoiding the limelight and glare of politics, choosing not to get involved after her student activity ceased. I was not aware of this and I accept now that the claim she was a serial liar is not factual.”

Ramjan has assembled a stellar legal team to run the case, instructing Patrick George from Kennedys solicitors, who has briefed Matthew Richardson and the leading defamation silk in the country, Bruce McClintock.

There are two separate actions against Kroger and The Oz, although it was indicated in court this morning the matters will be run concurrently.

After reading Marr’s report in the Quarterly Essay, I asked my husband to stand in front of me and punch the wall, because I wanted to know what if felt like. I am much taller and stronger than Ramjan, who is extremely petite, and I found it a terrifying experience, even though I knew my husband wasn’t actually going to hit me.

The case, of course, does not involve deciding whether or not the alleged incident took place, but whether Kroger has defamed Ramjan by describing her as a serial liar. The case could run into next year, prompting another round of headlines in an election year about what Abbott did or didn’t do to a woman in 1977.

The political and legal implications of this matter are being felt far beyond the walls of the NSW Supreme Court.

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22 thoughts on “Kroger defo case revives stories of Abbott’s uni past

  1. drmick

    About time the gutless loud mouthed unchecked Oz & its sycophants get to justify the outrageous rubbish they come out with. Hope it costs them both a fortune.

  2. Deipnosoph

    Go Barbara! There are a lot of people wishing you well on this one.

  3. klewso

    Oh dear …. now we’re going to be treated to the spectacle of “The Lizards of Oz” using it’s auspices to “take on” Ramjan in the name of truthiness and honestry?
    Did she live in “that house” too?

  4. tonyfunnywalker

    Go Barbara and a hope a few more join with you.

  5. zut alors

    Hallelujah! I was already on a high following First Dog’s Walkley Award but now can barely wipe the smile off my face.

    How unusual for Jones not to do his normal extensive background research and fact checking before letting fly.

  6. Mike Smith

    Tear Kroger and the Australian new ones, Barbara! It’ll look good on them!

  7. Daniella Barbar

    go get him Barbara on behalf of every female who has felt the physical threat by a man then not believed by ‘other men’.

  8. CML

    I had a similar experience in my early thirties, when a male doctor threatened to punch me. We were the only two people in a hospital elevator at the time. I was a nursing supervisor, and he had just made a rather large mistake, which I said I would have to report because the patient involved was demanding something be done about it.
    The whole incident was very frightening, but did not stop me from reporting the (patient) mistake. This man bullied me for the next couple of years until he left the hospital. That was 40 years ago – nothing was done about it by the powers that be, but it has stayed with me ever since.
    So Barbara, go as hard as you can, and win a victory for all of us who have put up with male standover tactics at sometime in our lives.

  9. The Pav

    Just how is Jone’s statement an apology?

    From my read of the article whilst he did not make the allegation/statement his guest did.

    Whilsta DJ cannot necessarily control what people say he can control what goes out. He also selected the guest and one would assume he would have been aware of what his guest would say. Particularly as his guest would have been protecting Jone’s protege.

    If Jones & his ratbag station don’t get pinned in this as well then it would be a travesty.

    In a contest between Kroger , Abbott and Jones aagianst Ramjan I will back Ramjan any day!

  10. The Pav

    Whilst the case will not necessarily be about wheteher did or did not punch the wall it well may establish Ramja’s credibility and honesty.

    This will then mean her account can be accepted and thus it can be implied that Abbott either was untruthful about his ability to recall the indident or if it is true that he cannot recall then perhaps it is beacuse he did something like it so often he couldn’t remember a particular incident.Oops no that wouldn’t work either because he said it wasn’t the sort of behaviour he indulged.

    Although Joe Hockey might have a different opinion and we would have to believe boxers don’t throw punches