May 3, 2018

Only clowns in the Mirabella circus

Former MP Sophie Mirabella may well be pleased that her defamation case against The Benalla Ensign has paid off, but no one has come out looking good.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Wangaratta Magistrates' Court is an art deco building on Faithfull Street. Tinted windows let golden light onto carpets of a grubby caramel colour -- black spots with lighter yellow flowers. Faithfull Street is largely cafes and bars, edged by the tree-lined Ovens River that runs languid around the picturesque cathedral town. It's here that the possibly self-defeating and certainly bizarre defamation case between former Indi MP Sophie Mirabella and the Benalla Ensign concluded yesterday, in Mirabella's favour.

Benalla is a town 50 kilometres south west of Wangaratta. The paper had already printed an apology and retraction regarding the April 2016 story at the heart of the matter. The story claimed Mirabella had physically pushed her (ultimately victorious) opponent in the seat of Indi, Cathy McGowan -- who belatedly agreed it hadn't happened -- at the opening of a new wing of the Cooinda retirement home. 

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18 thoughts on “Only clowns in the Mirabella circus

  1. MJM

    “… possibly self-defeating ..” The court reports I saw certainly confirmed my already low opinion of Mirabella, regardless of the outcome.

  2. Yclept

    Those kids were wrong. She was a bitch well before she didn’t push McGowan!

  3. DF

    I think it would be fair to say that Sophie Panopoulos-Mirabella has distinguished herself as a particularly unlovely person over a long period, as a government backbencher (studiously ignored for promotion by John Howard), a Shadow Minister, and then a Minister. Her loss to McGowan was one of the brighter spots in the 2013 election.
    This excerpt from Wikipedia captures the essence of her interpersonal skills quite nicely: Parliamentary style

    According to Fenella Souter in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mirabella is known for her “caustic, confrontational manner”.[2] Her behaviour led her to be ejected from parliament at least twice. In 2007, David Hawker expelled her for shouting at him after being warned twice to resume her seat. She defied parliamentary orders under Standing Order No. 94A and thus was removed from the House of Representatives for misconduct.[27] In 2010, Peter Slipper expelled Mirabella from parliament for 24 hours on the eve of the vote on the carbon tax, when she “refused to accept a ruling barring her from tabling an anti-carbon tax petition”.[28]

    On a number of occasions her comments both inside and outside parliament attracted controversy. In 2008, Mirabella stated in parliament to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has no children, “You won’t need his (ex-PM Kevin Rudd’s) taxpayer-funded nanny, will you?”[29] Mirabella again created controversy on 2 March 2011, when she compared Gillard to Muammar Gaddafi, claiming both were delusional.[30] Abbott refused to condemn Mirabella, instead terming the comparison colourful and not language he would use.[31] In 2012, she denounced fellow Liberal NSW Senator Bill Heffernan by telling him to “Oh, why don’t you go and pop your Alzheimer’s pills”. This was in response to Heffernan branding a fellow Liberal senator a “fuckwit”.[32]

    Prior to the 2013 federal election, retiring independent MP Tony Windsor nominated Mirabella for “the nasty prize” when asked who was the person he would miss least in politics on the ABC Insiders program. “She is the nastiest — I reckon if you put it to a vote to all politicians, she’d come up No.1”.[33]

    1. Arky

      There was a pretty caustic profile published in The Age back when Sophie was still an MP, which heavily implied she basically used Colin Howard QC as her sugar daddy to set her up for life with money and political contacts and continued to ride that gravy train even after she married another man and maybe past the point where Howard had the mental fitness to consent to continue giving her money. I never did hear what happened to the Howard family’s challenge to his will, but Sophie never sued The Age for defamation…

      She seems to have been greatly disliked even by most MPs on her own side let alone the Opposition, which is no surprise given she is someone nasty enough to boycott the Stolen Generations apology and deny the Stolen Generations even existed.

      Even in this case, she didn’t push McGowan but it came out both that she restrained Wyatt from appearing in the photo with McGowan and also tried to get him to change his evidence to be more favourable to her.

      It would be an injustice if she gets more than a token award.

      1. MJM

        “It would be an injustice if she gets more than a token award.” Yes indeed. Makes me quite nostalgic for the days when courts ordered damages payments in peppercorns or farthings. Maybe a token $1 in this case?

        1. gjb

          maybe she should just be ignored and quietly dissolve into the sludge from which she came.

          1. Arky

            I wish, but this is someone who got put straight onto the gravy train in a high paying position by the government; losing while a Coalition government is in office was the best thing that could have happened to her.

      2. RoRo

        Arky, exactly. Her boycott of the stolen generations apology and denial that it ever happened perfectly summarises what an ugly person she is.
        If only the court could take into account the fact that she works for a capitalist toad like Gina Rinehart in their calculation of damages…

    2. Bill Hilliger

      Sophie should seek employment as a public relations advisor to Michaelia Cash.

      1. Peter Wileman

        Peas in a pod

      2. RL

        Cheers Bill, a pairing made in heaven.
        Who could forget her stunning show of compassion when she leapt to help Simon Sheik from GetUp when he collapsed next to her on the Q&A panel.

        1. AR

          Heaven?… HEAVEN!!? shorly shome mishtake?
          I think we have been tolled.

  4. crakeka

    No one covered themselves in glory in this. Our defamation laws should not award damages to politicians, merely apologies on the front page if reports prove to be incorrect. If politicians had to defend their statements as being substantially true, that would be a breakthrough, and infinitely more important for the survival of democracy.

    1. RoRo

      Yeah, good point. Also I can’t help but feel like *no one cares* about whether or not a politician pushed someone in an election 5 years ago. A clear and well-positioned apology would do so much more than dragging it through court.
      If anything suing for defamation merely reconfirms the public persona and reputation and Sophie Mirabella has crafted for herself.

  5. AR

    I’m sorry to say that McGowan’s testimony does not impress.
    But then she was a gNat for many a long year.

  6. johnnhogan

    A disappointing episode. I don’t know anyone who thinks Mirabella is a high quality individual. It was a good story about how her electorate understood this and threw her out in favour of a local independent. This case showed McGowan to be a lot less than a noble person who took arms against a big-party incumbent. It is very disappointing to learn that she allowed a false impression to be perpetrated in order to further her career. That is the kind of behaviour I would expect from Mirabella and those of her ilk. I believe her position is untenable. It simply doesn’t matter if she is a demonstrably more decent person than some other person, her behaviour was not good enough.

    1. Deipnosoph

      When you’re up against the devil, surely some leeway is allowed?

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