Joe Hockey’s defamation case against Fairfax gets underway

Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax for a series of articles, one of which said he was a “Treasurer for Sale”.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Treasurer Joe Hockey could not allow “scurrilous and false allegations?about corruption” reported by Fairfax Media to remain unchallenged,?his lawyers have told the opening of a defamation trial.

Mr Hockey says Fairfax Media defamed him in a series of articles in The Sydney Morning?Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times about his relationship with?a Liberal Party fundraising body the North Sydney Forum, published on May 5, 2014.

His barrister, Bruce McClintock, SC, told the Federal Court Mr?Hockey’s case is that Fairfax Media editors were motivated to publish?”extraordinarily serious allegations” that they “knew were false”?because they had to publish a correction to an earlier article about?Mr Hockey.

“It was an act of petty spite,” Mr McClintock said. In that article, published on March 21, 2014, the papers said Mr?Hockey repaid money to Australian Water Holdings, a company that has?been the subject of an investigation by the Independent Commission?Against Corruption.

In fact it was the North Sydney Forum that repaid?the money. The papers ran an apology the following day. Subsequent emails and text messages between Fairfax Media editors and?political reporters show the decision to publish the “Treasurer for Sale”?series of articles was a “calculated plan” written to “exact?revenge”, Mr McClintock said.

In a series of text messages, Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir?told The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden that he was angry at being?contacted at 2.15am by Mr Hockey’s staff.

“They have a f—ing hide,” he said. “I feel pissed off they called me?so early.”

Holden replied: “The simplest approach is to dig into NSF? in that?story you can run Hockey’s claim he knew nothing ? beyond that, f—?him.

“Amazing they freeze us out and then think they have the relationship?that allows them to call in the middle of the night.”

Goodsir said: “Are we not better to have a red hot go at the issue?next week, and really go for it ? after the day we’ve had, I ain’t?going to run this ? but am more than keen to develop a North Sydney?Forum plan for next week.”

He instructed Herald state political editor Sean Nicholls to dig into?the North Sydney Forum.

On March 27, Goodsir wrote: “F—ing Brilliant ? given what?Andrew and I endured last week with Hockey, I want to have this nailed?to the cross in more ways than one ? keep digging Sean? I have long?dreamed (well, only since last Friday), of a headline that screams:?Sloppy Joe! I think we are not far off, but perhaps even more serious?than that.”

Sounds like the editors and then their staff conducted a vendetta.

Mr Hockey claims that, as a result of the articles, he has been?”greatly injured, shunned and avoided and his reputation has been and?will be bought into disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt”.

He says Fairfax Media’s “over sensational, extravagant and unfair?presentation” of the articles indicated an “intent to injure” him.

Mr McClintock told the court that Mr Hockey had called Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood over the March 21 article.

He said Mr Hywood replied: “Be thankful you are getting what you are?[an apology].”

Mr McClintock said Mr Hywood warned Mr Hockey to “be careful” that if the matter?went to court “you are not another Craig Thomson”.

He said it appeared the publication of the articles was timed to be just before Mr Hockey handed down his first budget and that they remain online despite there not?being a contention by Fairfax Media that what was published is true.

Mr McClintock said the placard (poster) and headline “Treasurer for Sale” clearly?accused Mr Hockey of corruption.

“There is no innocent explanation for those words,” he said.

“Could there be a more serious allegation made against the Treasurer?of Australia?”

Threats, bullying, intimidation by journalists, editors and newspapers…sounds remarkably like the NZ Herald here.