Thinking of suing for defamation? Have a drink first, and play with the dog
Eddie Obeid isn’t just the eternal poster boy for bare-faced political corruption and a current inmate of Her Majesty’s prisons.
He was also, back in the day, a successful defamation plaintiff, taking damages of $162,173 and more than $1 million in costs from Fairfax over a series of articles by Kate McClymont which had labeled him as, well, corrupt.
When Eddie finally went down after his long career of poisoning the governmental well with his cartoonish venality, Fairfax stood vindicated — and still $1,162,173 (plus its own legal costs) poorer. You don’t get it back.
Don’t blame Eddie though, he was only pursuing Australian political tradition. Our MPs are the world’s most litigious and, if you’ve ever wondered why the media’s constant calls for urgent reform of our defamation laws are consistently ignored by our parliaments, then an exploration of the record of politicians suing media organizations for defamation might give you a clue.
PHOTO: Eddie Obeid won a defamation case against Fairfax Media for calling him corrupt… before being jailed. (AAP: Dean Lewins, file photo)
While they routinely clothe themselves in the conceit that you need a thick skin in politics, our representatives are notoriously quick to reach for the lawyers when they don’t like what they read. Bob Hawke remains the champion, having sued pretty much everyone in his career and collecting an impressive collection of payouts.
Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen also sued everything that moved, filing more than 20 suits. His entire cabinet at one point memorably jointly sued the opposition leader for calling them all corrupt. Which, really, they were.