The Kim Williams versus Fairfax stoush rolls on. And now there’s a feral cat among the pigeons.
As Crikey revealed yesterday, the former News Corporation Australia boss has launched defamation proceedings in the New South Wales Supreme Court against Fairfax. He’s still furious at a front-page Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review article claiming he stormed out of a Sydney Opera House Trust board meeting in disgust at CEO Louise Herron.
Many in Fairfax are genuinely shocked that Williams has gone to court. With some notable exceptions, media figures rarely sue for defamation except in the most egregious of cases. And plenty are wryly quoting a September speech in which Williams decried Australia as “the land of the glass jaw”.
The Sydney Morning Herald attempted some last-minute legal manoeuvres yesterday to throw Williams’ case off course. SMH legal boffins wrote to Williams’ lawyer, Mark O’Brien, demanding he step down from the case. O’Brien, you see, served as the paper’s legal counsel until six months ago and the SMH is aghast he’s going up against them so soon. Crikey understands O’Brien politely told the paper to get nicked: he insists he has no conflicts and can represent who he likes.
O’Brien, one of the top defamation lawyers in the country, has previously represented Rene Rivkin, Alan Jones and Kerry Packer. Bruce McClintock SC — who has represented 2Day FM and Gina Rinehart — is also in Williams’ corner.
One person who appears to be enjoying the stoush is SMH columnist Mike Carlton. Joe Aston, the AFR reporter who wrote the Williams story, has unleashed on Carlton before in his Rear Window column. He wrote in August:
“Poor Mike, looking back uphill in the rear-vision mirror at the former universe he was astride. He’s in the billabong of life — a tepid body of water going nowhere, hardly worth drowning in.”
Now, it’s payback time. Carlton fired off an email to Aston yesterday afternoon which, would you believe it, has fallen in Crikey‘s lap. Here it is in full:
Your ‘story’ on Kim Williams would appear to be a perfect clusterfuck, wrong in every detail. And expensive, too. (Although , in your favour, you did spell his name correctly.)
Can’t say I’m surprised. As I have said before, you can’t write. You are not funny. You are an unmitigated pissant, a polyp on the arse-end of journalism.
Normally I wouldn’t bother to write to a posturing little twerp like you, but in this case I wanted you to know how much I am enjoying your public humiliation.
Now go fuck yourself.
Aston declined to comment on the matter; so did Carlton, who wouldn’t even confirm sending the missive.
Here’s hoping the pair can sort out their spat over a gin and tonic: they’re two of the most entertaining columnists around.