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Joe Hockey to put reasonableness to test
Undoubtedly, the headline is strong, "Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access", yet it is the publication as a whole that will have to be assessed by the court.
In the meantime, unlike the members of the North Sydney Forum, there's been no privileged government access for Fairfax journalists. The Australian Financial Review reported that PM Abbott's press secretary Jane McMillan told ministerial flack merchants not to give any special assistance to reporters from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Hockey told the Q&A viewers on Monday night: "I would urge you not to believe everything you read in The Sydney Morning Herald and for good reason."
Fairfax will just have to bend over and take the cuts.
It should be said that in England a leveraged case structured like Hockey's would not get to first base. Here the plaintiff is suing three separate publishers, The Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times and each of their platforms, print, tablet and online. That's nine separate claims for substantially the same story, seeking up to nine separate awards of damages.
That's not on in England, where only one pick at the cherry is permissible. Of course, in the USA a case from a leading politician would not even get out the front door of a lawyer's office.
Frankly, it is regrettable that a politician, with the absolute privilege of the echo chamber of parliament, runs to the court to assert his reputation. It's almost as embarrassing as journalists suing for defamation.
Richard Ackland is the publisher of the Gazette of Law & Journalism. Twitter @JustinianNews
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/joe-hockey-to-put-reasonableness-to-test-20140522-zrl90.html#ixzz32WHCZ9cV