joe aston elaine stead
Elaine Stead and Joe Aston (Images: SouthStart; Joe Aston/Twitter)

“She was being serially mocked in Australia’s leading financial daily as being, in effect, a gaping moron. There was an asymmetry of power and Dr [Elaine] Stead was sufficiently astute to understand that Mr [Joe] Aston was ‘the one with the column inches’.”

That’s how Federal Court Justice Michael Lee saw it, and he awarded Stead $280,000 in compensatory and aggravated damages against Aston’s employer at The Australian Financial Review, Fairfax Media (now Nine Entertainment).

Stead had sued for defamation over a series of attack pieces by Aston in the Rear Window business gossip column of the AFR during 2018 and 2019. He had called her a “cretin”, compared her to the movie idiot Brick Tamlin, described her social media posts as “unhinged drivel” and gone after her record as a venture capital fund manager, calling her a “venture capital pyromaniac” who “set fire to other people’s money”.