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“Reputation, reputation, reputation!” O, I ha’ lost my reputation, I ha’ lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial!

There has been a flurry of politicians to our defamation courts in recent times. These delicate petals are concerned that their reputations have been sullied and, as noted by Shakespeare in Othello once their reputation has been lost ‘I ha’ lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial’. Perhaps Peter Dutton was ‘left with the bestial part’ when he ventured into the defamation courts to sue the pants off a citizen – but more of this later.

It has always been a point of contention in the arena of free speech that the only remedies for those who believe their reputations have been tarnished was either to challenge the offender to a duel or drag him before our courts of justice in an action for libel or slander, now collectively termed defamation. Do you remember how the Marquess of Queensberry in 1895 was somewhat peeved that his son Alfred was having an intimate affair with playwright and poet Oscar Wilde?

Queensberry left his card at Wilde’s club (as you do) with the scrawled message “For Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite” – not known for his spelling capabilities was the Marquess. Even so, this prompted Wilde to sue Queensberry in Libel however, things didn’t go too well and Wilde withdrew the action. Inevitably the case had revealed publicly that Wilde was an homosexual and that he had engaged in acts of ‘gross indecency’ which by the standards of the day were a crime : he was subsequently charged under the criminal law and after several trials with hung juries he was convicted and served two years in prison – his career was also brought to an end and he spent his final days in exile in France.

Politicians don’t generally seek to drag people through the courts with claims that they have been defamed and their otherwise impeccable characters and reputations tarnished. The reason for this is largely due to politicians not having impeccable characters and reputations but more specifically, having been granted ‘parliamentary privilege’ to say what they want in parliament without the risk of being sued, it has been considered as unseemly for them to mount actions against anybody who hurts their feelings beyond the parliament.

Which brings us to Peter Dutton who made it known in March that he would take a more aggressive stance against false and defamatory statements made about him online. ‘Spud’ as he is fondly known was as good as his word when he initiated a defamation action against refugee advocate Shane Bazzi. Dutton had told Sky News that female refugees held on Nauru were claiming they needed to come to Australia for an abortion following rape, but changed their minds when they arrived. “You could question whether people needed medical attention,” he said. Bazzi called Dutton a ‘rape apologist’ as well as a few other choice names notably beginning with an F and a C. In the preliminary hearing the appointed judge, justice Richard White, ordered the parties to attend mediation by 31 August and suggested the case could be settled without a trial.

What our politicians, including Porter and Dutton seem to overlook when they rush to the steps of the court is that judges – unlike lawyers – don’t really want to take up the time of the court with these defamation actions which in many cases (see Barilaro) are quite petty and even if the politician wins, their dubious reputations are rarely enhanced.

Mediation merely requires the parties sit down with a mediator, frequently appointed by the court, and discuss their differences and arrive at a compromise thus saving themselves and the courts a lot of time and money. The idea being that once an agreement between the parties has been struck and approved by the court, they go their separate ways and avoid the temptation of yelling to the media, “I won, you lost”. Not that this discouraged Christian Porter who, following mediation and having agreed to withdraw his action against the ABC, called it a “humiliating backdown” by the broadcaster, despite not having obtained an apology or the damages he had sought.

When mediation fails or is not adopted by the parties – as with the case involving Ben Roberts-Smith – the matter will go to court and the parties will go at each other in an adversarial fight to the death, not unlike the duels of days past. Whilst not a politician, Roberts-Smith has much to lose in defending his character against charges made by the Nine media network and relating to his army service in Afghanistan. A battle of the Titans of Australian media with Roberts-Smith is an executive with Seven media. His adversary, Nine media are adopting the defence of ‘truth’, a complete defence that they will be called upon to demonstrate as the case progresses. Should he fail, Roberts-Smith will be placed in much the same boat as Oscar Wilde, with the possibility of criminal charges to follow.

Mounting defamation actions is not for the faint hearted and much like entering a casino, you must be prepared to lose and to lose heavily if the cards don’t fall your way.

Shakespeare explains it well: “Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”

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29 comments

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  1. Kathryn

    The appalling thing about corrupt politicians who choose to take ordinary citizens to court to face outrageous claims of defamation, is that these same political parasites get all THEIR court and legal costs fully subsidised by the TAXPAYERS of Australia WHEREAS ordinary citizens are likely to lose their homes and everything they have to fight a long, protracted legal battle against a vindictive, vengeful politician desperately seeking court action to cover his/her tail!

    The fact that members of the Morrison regime are prepared to STOOP SO LOW, tells us everything we need to know about the depths of their depravity and unconscionable, sneering contempt against the democratic rights of Australians. This form of retribution – wasting the time of the courts and expending countless millions of taxpayer dollars – in what can only be described as a callously vindictive act of persecution, goes AGAINST everything Australians value about FREEDOM OF SPEECH, democracy and our right of freedom of expression without persecution!

    The point is, politicians are public servants, fully supported by Australians and we have, therefore, the absolute RIGHT to challenge, justifiably condemn and bring this appalling regime to account for their escalating level of deviousness, corruption and inhumanity! Just about every member of the Morrison regime REFUSE to face ANY consequence whatsoever for their rising level of malfeasance. The fact that the right-wing-extremists and political parasites in the worst government in living memory are now taking it on themselves to drag ordinary citizens – who’s hard-earned tax dollars pay the salaries of these political miscreants – through courts to face appalling legal consequences for their right to criticise, condemn and challenge politicians, is not only absurd and vindictive, it sets a very, very dangerous precedence of FASCISM!

    The sooner Australians WAKE UP and get rid of this appalling, undemocratic regime, the better!

  2. Jack Cade

    Good article!

  3. Baby Jewels

    Currently, Dutton, Porter, Barilaro and Laming, all known to many of us for their poor character and reputation, are suing Australian citizens for their comments. I’d say “damaging comments” but when your reputation is so poor, it’d be hard for anyone else to damage it any more than has already been done by the politician himself. I see it simply as another ruse of the LNP, to silence dissent of all kinds.

  4. Attuross

    Let’s call it as it is, It has been a flurry of politicians from Conservative ranks only, the Libs and a Nat.
    And we all know why.

  5. John OCallaghan

    Nothing will change while the majority of our corrupt media runs a protection racket for these corrupt politicians and organisations. Even the Guardian has thrown Julian Assange under the bus to please their yankee war mongering murdering masters and wont even mention his name . Will Scott Morrison and his thugs be re-elected ?...of course they will be as well over half the country have being conditioned to believe they are the best thing since sliced bread!

  6. Ken

    We all must do whatever we can to stop all this corruption by the LNP.

  7. Terence Mills

    Attuross

    Thanks for reminding me about Laming – there are so many of them milling around the court steps that I missed Laming.

  8. Roscoe

    the double dipping leaner took the SMH to court for defamation and won!!!! $250k I think it was. maybe these pollies should be careful they dont end up like Porter though

  9. New England Cocky

    Perhaps John Lord will be adding today’s Liarbral Nazional$ scandal to the list of rorts; the $4.8 BILLION feral Urban Congestion fund used to provide commuter carparks, relieve traffic pinch-points and intersections. The Scummo led politicians directed this cash largely into 15 Federal COALition seats &8 LABOR seats, with 38% allocated to Victoria and 16% to NSW.

    Infrastructure Australia has identified that Sydney has the most congested roads.

    SMH 290621 p17-18, Timna Jacks.
    .
    .
    @Ken: Perhaps the optimal method for fixing this problem is:

    VOTE INDEPENDENT OR SFF IN COUNTRY ELECTORATES
    .
    VOTE ANYONE BUT LIARBRALS IN CITY ELECTORATES

  10. Phil Pryor

    Dutton, (let him sue) thinks his shit doesn’t stink, but he is all shit, nose too, so nothing shitty registers as all is brown, stinking, familiar. And B Joyce-Rootemandgrogon is at it with bizarre filthy insults, the perennial pisspot poltroon and political pervert from New England. There are two males known as arseholes there, and he is both. You could mould a better man out of diarrhoea. What a government under this bowel blast of a P M, the Pathetic Misfit, all inclined to cheat, lie, do it for donors, please the corporate lords, bend the compliant botty for a corrupted nation with its country party buggered environment full of pests, plagues, poxes, problems…

  11. Attuross

    New England Cocky, voting Independent is just handing over your vote to someone to do with as they please. They could vote with the LNP most of the time, or even join them. If people want change, then vote Labor, you have a good idea of their basic beliefs and ideas, an Independent is a pig in a poke, in the country usually someone who has stood for Liberal or National pre-selection and lost.
    As for the SFF, they are Nationals without old school ties, inherited fortunes and dinner suites.

  12. Henry Rodrigues

    The bastards get away with all their misdeeds and rorts only because they get protection and favourable publicity by the most corrupt media in any democratic country. Putin must in awe, even he might learn a thing or two.

    Yea Scumballs and bastards, go ahead and sue.

  13. wam

    Wow mediation, ad astra, between husband and wife arguing over favourite saucepan or the brett whitely or porter’s lawyer getting $100k out of the ABC’s $780k But bazzi and dutton you are a @%^^ arsehole vs no I am not???
    ps Aturross the preferential system allows for voting independent which gives the electorate a chance for an independent member but as long as YOU put the loonies or lnp or PHON or whomever last they can NEVER get your vote. The major parties, under Hawke introduced a scheme of voting which abrogated the allocation of preferences to the party The FIRST preference is for cash and the loonies exploit that for all their worth and, unless you have principles, why not?

  14. GL

    The three objects mentioned in the comments so far have to be the vilest excuses for humans let alone politicians currently oozing around at the moment. They are the epitome of knuckle dragging cavemen.

  15. Attuross

    wam, I am very aware of the Electoral system, and also aware that voting in an Independent is letting someone do as they please on every issue, which may or maybe not what I want, whereas if I vote for a major Party, I am voting broadly in line with my beliefs and values, not some character who can be a party plant from the start, or have a screw loose, just waiting to be unleashed on the Electorate, maybe a business agenda or a myriad of other reasons I would never vote for an Independent.
    Labor 1st Pref, through the Greens, Independents, SFF or LIbs (order depending on the Individuals), finally the lunar right fascists and ratbags.

  16. Andrew J. Smith

    If people wished to preserve their reputation then they should not voluntarily participate in grotty political rhetoric and agitprop, or not enter politics at all.

    However, one thinks this is not just about ‘reputation’ but an effective form of autocracy to shut down dissenting voices in public spaces, sends a message to everyone and nativist conservatives can play the victim card.

    This has been a central plank now in US GOP, UK Tory and Australian LNP politics (Poland, Hungary, Russia etc.), ably supported by media, to enforce white Christian nationalism based upon radical right libertarian ideology, and eugenics of the pecking order.

  17. wam

    dear attuross,
    yes my mistake:
    ‘voting Independent is just handing over your vote to someone to do with as they please’
    I misinterpreted this ‘your vote’ as your vote at the polls but remember the ‘almost champions’ windsor and oakeschott??
    I involve independents for my cash and occasionally give my cash to one because of their profile and their guts in standing.

  18. corvusboreus

    Whilst the ‘left’ remains neutered and riven by petty divisions,the pragmatic alliance of conservative partieswill continue to trounce all opposition in elections and subject us to the haughty rule of our natural born betters.
    This includes them continuing to spit in the face of societal decency by ensconcing vile sexual predators and mentally unstable morons in lofty ministerial positions.
    Suck it up lefties, we squabbling tribalists are amongst the chief enablers.

  19. wam

    good one crow but are you sure it is ‘we’?
    The lnp and labor command the centre and have to rely on extremist and independent preferences both at the polls and for their vote in the parliament without accepting their extreme political positions or policies.
    So wake up loonies, forget the diludbransimkims’ pragmatism, dump the bandit’s chicanery and pick up your principles of protection of flora and fauna.

  20. corvusboreus

    wam,
    Always and ever at it with the ‘loonie’ crap.
    You gleefully and willfully persist in gratifying yourself by using monotonous repetitions of base sledges in order to provoke irritation and disrupt discussion away from constructive informational exchange
    That makes you a definitive troll and a toxic influencer.
    I walk resignedly away from a once nourishing wellspring that has been choked with filth and poisoned beyond palatability or potability.
    Phuq you very much for helping to irredeemably bugger up the AIMN to the point that it is barely to not worth bothering with.
    Corvus out.

  21. New England Cocky

    @Attuross: That was NOT our experience in either Northern Tablelands with Richard Torbay (Independent) or in Tamworth & New England with Tony Windsor.

    Indeed, Torbay dragged Armidale, Inverell, Glen Innes & Tenterfield into the 21st century screaming in protest, but happy to receive the government infrastructure that too many decades of representatives of the Nazional$ Party had failed to achieve.

    Windsor represented Tamworth with distinction for about a decade, holding Nick ”Goulash” Greiner to account for some of his shady dealings, consolidating Tamworth TAFE with new faculties, getting essential main road upgrades completed, building the Tamworth Equine Centre and securing town water supplies ande sewage infrastructure for the small towns near major irrigation dams.

    Then after being voted into Federal Parliament as the first elected MP in 2000 with 62% of the Primary Vote, Windsor represented New England voters with his customary distinction achieving funding for upgrading the killer Bolivia Hill, by-passes for Tenterfield and Scone, etc, etc, etc.

    Perhaps his greatest achievement was with Rob Oakeshott (Independent) MP for Lyne, in preventing Toxic RAbbott & the Liarbral Nazional$ COALition holding the Treasury benches during the 2009 GFC when the Labor Rudd Henry strategy pulled the Australian economy through as arguably the strongest national economy in the OECD.

    As for Independents being ”a pig in a poke” I think that description better describes Barnyard Joke the representative of the Nazional$ Family Values of adultery, alcoholism, bigotry, corruption, deceit, egoism, fornication, groping, harassment, misogyny and Barnyard Joke.

    As for the SFF I draw your attention to the fact that 3/8 NSW electorates west of the Great Dividing Range are held by SFF MPs; Roy Butler Barwon, Philip Donato Orange & Helen Dalton Murray with Joe McGirr (Independent) holding Wagga Wagga after the resignation of Auntie Gladys Bin Chicken’s paramour.

    The mainstream media mastheads give little attention to the achievements of these politicians because the previous Nazional$ incumbents were more concerned with rorting the Parliamentary Allowances Schemes and personal pecuniary agendas than representing the best interests of Australian voters.

    Country voters are sick & tired of being taken for granted by politicians of any persuasion who are unwilling or unable to understand climate change is real, protect the water entitlements of irrigators in the S MDB and Murray Valley and recognise that mental health, hospitals, education, police and government infrastructure funding are essential government services for both city AND COUNTRY VOTERS.

    I disagree with your unfounded assertion (@wam) that major parties represent the best interests of their supporters and/or Party membership. The present Scummo Liarbral Nazional$ COALiiton is representing the best interests of corporations rather than Australian voters, pursuing the ”Greed is Good” philosophy of the Hell$ingers Cult of Greed and Paedophile Protection with cult members promoted into Ministries for being members of the Hell$inger$ Choru$ rather than having the necessary ability or merit.

    Think the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out by Greg Hunt, the adventures of alleged rapist unChristian Porter and the $80 MILLION empty glass of MDB water by Barnyard Joke while doing nothing to prevent over-pumping of N MDB water during the 2019 worst drought in living memory during which cotton farmers produced a record crop ….. without taking any water from the MDB ….. and the fish kills …..Anybody for a new car-park near a railway station??

  22. DrakeN

    Thank you for that, N E C – you saved me a lot of reference finding and typing time 🙂

  23. DrakeN

    Thank you Terence.
    Well writ.

  24. corvusboreus

    It is too funny that the AIMN is festooned with sportsbets ads.

    An allegedly socially progressive blog used as a vehicle to peddle a scam designed to enrich sociopathic gangsters profitting from pushing wifespread gambling addiction at a crippling cost to individuals, families, community and society.

    Whilst we rant about implementing ethical practices to benefit social justice, we are simultaneously supporting an iconic institution of sociopolitical corruption.

    I would add some stats on the documented correlation between hyper-promoted sporting-gambling events and simultaneous spikes in incidence of domestic violence and abuse, but facts about factors that trigger increases in domestic bashings are about as boring.as observations on ecology.

    Carn the blues, and fetch me a phuqqen beer bitch.

  25. corvusboreus

    NEC,
    Oakeshott was a local indi candidate last in my electorate last time round.
    He polled well, but lost to an ex-cop from team Nat.
    The corrupt union thug party and loony mob candidates got small serves of slops and dregs.
    Next time round I reckon I’ll bring a crayon and fill my ballot with doodles of dicks.

  26. Attuross

    New England Cocky, you state “The present Scummo Liarbral Nazional$ COALiiton is representing the best interests of corporations rather than Australian voters, pursuing the ”Greed is Good” philosophy of the Hell$ingers Cult of Greed and Paedophile Protection with cult members promoted into Ministries for being members of the Hell$inger$ Choru$ rather than having the necessary ability or merit”.
    I agree with you there, and sadly that is what the majority of LNP voters want or are happy with.
    I bet London to a Brick that New England returns the incoherent, malingering drunk Joyce as its local member, because most up there are happy with what he represents.

  27. corvusboreus

    Last state election I handed put HTV cards for an indi candidate.
    This was because she had earned my respect through her integrity and intellect.
    I had also handed out HTV cards when she successfully ran as a local councillor.
    She initially ran for council as a Green, but switched to independent status for state, probably because the NSW greens are an extra-flaky pack of moron flavoured biscuits dominated by a fanatical faction of perennial student activists from the inner suburbs.
    She scored well (28% primary), but lost to the candidate from tean Nat, a lobbyist from the rapidly expanding blueberry industry that is directly responsible for causing widespread fishkills and poisoning local schools and homes with their extensive use of a cocktail of chemicals, practices which locals seemingly endorse.
    The Labor and Greens candidates earned token participation awards.

    Question is, was I better off throwing away my vote on an almost-there indi, or tossing a pity donation to the guaranteed loser from Labor?

  28. Kathryn

    The corrupt, totally depraved, bottom-feeding miscreants in the LNP – and the bible-thumping hypocrites and Murdoch-misinformed idiots who cheer them on – may believe that God sent Morrison and the LNP, but that’s only because He ran out of locusts, boils, frogs and lice! As far as ordinary Australians are concerned, the totally depraved, self-serving and smugly arrogant Morrison/Dutton/Porter/Laming regime have proven to be the WORST plague this nation has ever witnessed in living memory!

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