After being restricted, blocked, foiled and objected to by a phalanx of legal artillery, Amber Harrison was finally allowed to read out a brief statement over the phone to the New South Wales Supreme Court yesterday.

Seven’s well remunerated silk, Dr Andrew Bell SC, was super quick to respond, telling Justice John Sackar Harrison’s 490 words contained “at least 12 wrong, false or misconceived statements”. Wow, these warring parties just can’t agree on anything. So what did Amber Harrison actually say? Here is the statement in full:

Your Honour, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I just wanted to note I have been asked to speak to the issue of costs that Channel Seven seek in your courtroom, and this statement should not be considered a general statement from me.

We are all here because Seven wanted to run a trial. The cost of this trial was unnecessary. I instructed my lawyers not to run it to save cost and made every attempt to resolve the issues with Seven. I again, here today, invite Seven to reach a workable solution with me. I agreed on Sunday to the court orders Seven seek. Seven chose to run this trial, and they should pay for it. 

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The way Deed 2 between Seven and I was drafted on 14 November 2014 made any rights I had in that contract easily manipulated. I had a right to access justice to pursue a solution, and I did so privately for two years.

Seven and I have been involved in a marathon three years brutal unnecessary protracted legal process. Seven initiated litigation on 13 February 2017. Seven did not seek the normal process of security through the courts at that time if they wanted to claim costs. Every time I have filed an action in court, I have filed and been granted by the courts a fee waiver for economic hardship. Seven has always deliberately tried to increase legal costs. 

It is not clear to me the amount of costs they seek against me, but my case has mushroomed further legal actions against media companies and Shane Dowling. Any cost order against me will be punitive and pointless, as I will never have the resources to pay Seven.

Seven has access to vast legal resources including in-house counsel, Australia’s most expensive barristers and several major law firms. Seven have more than half a dozen lawyers in the court room today. Seven are professional litigators. Seven’s pockets for litigation are deep, and their appetite for it is endless.

Seven are getting everything they want in this process. They are getting their injunction, their trial win and all the orders they seek. Seven seeking costs against me will drive me into bankruptcy. I am a foster parent. If I have costs awarded against me it will affect my future ability to support my family.

When I was financially exhausted by two years of private lawfare and saw no possibility of taking on Seven in this court system, I took another course of action to tell my story. I should not be punished by the court system for taking a stand.

Your Honour, I ask you to dismiss my claim in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and grant Seven the permanent injunction they seek against me. I also ask you to use your discretionary powers and dismiss the claim for costs and order a “walk away” between Seven and I. 

The “always unsmiling” Sackar, as the AFR’s Aaron Patrick described him today, will deliver his judgment at 2pm on Monday and is expected to come down hard on Harrison.

Truth be known, he would actually be doing Seven a favour to go with the walkaway on costs, because a costs award will just perpetuate the marathon dispute and the need for some form of final “settlement”.

Is Seven West Media really going to spend more shareholder funds paying for a bankruptcy trustee to ensure an unemployed foster mum remains destitute?

Seven’s billionaire proprietor Kerry Stokes — who has signed off on the brutal tactics against Harrison every step of the way — might well be attracted to the idea that a bankrupt cannot nominate for a public company board.

[Mayne: Seven’s triumvirate buy themselves endless Amber Harrison publicity]

That’s true, but there’s no stopping a proxy from running for the Seven West Media and Seven Group Holdings boards at their AGMs in a few weeks’ time, and bankrupts can still turn up at AGMs and ask questions.

Meanwhile, the media continue to be extremely varied in their treatment of the story.

Seven have produced new emails all week to the court in a further attempt to discredit Harrison. Emails that have nothing to do with the case at all. And then Bell rips Harrison apart for leaking emails. Go figure. The Australian’s Margin Call column was onto that particular hypocrisy yesterday with a scathing critique.

But on the same day, the quality national broadsheet ran a large tabloid-style papped picture of Harrison outside her Melbourne home.

The Herald Sun was truly bizarre today, failing to cover what actually happened in court yesterday but instead putting a picture of Harrison with former Geelong Premiership coach Mark “Bomber” Thompson on both page 1 and page 3.

The paper failed to point out the oft-reported fact that Amber’s dad, Garry “Harro” Harrison, used to carry Bomber’s clipboard.

While successfully getting a super-injunction preventing Amber Harrison from saying anything about Seven, the company has dumped a cache of her emails into the public domain through court processes this week and is also proactively briefing them out to a range of journalists. 

There’s an obvious question here. Who hasn’t sent stupid emails? The rules that apply to Harrison don’t apply to Seven. Imagine if the full cache of Bruce McWilliam and Tim Worner emails were laid before a court. We already know about Worner’s fast-fingered capacity to send juicy texts.

Seven West continues to fight a brutal game, leaving the Melbourne foster mum with little option but to keep retaliating the way she has been for seven long months — through the court of public opinion.

If Seven was smart, it’d get its judgment and court order, then quickly move to a commercial settlement.

Sadly, the powerful men involved seem to me to have long lost their ability for sober judgment and intelligent compromise — wasting more and more public shareholder funds and precious brand equity with each passing day.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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