Joe Hockey has been awarded $200,000 in damages for hurt feelings over headline and a tweet. The judge made the interesting distinction between articles published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, which didn’t defame the Treasurer, and the headlines used to advertise the article on billboards, which did.
It’s a fine technical point. But it’s the law and Joe won, so he is now $200,000 richer. Some people might think that’s a lot for hurt feelings. Particularly pensioners.
But this really is beside the point.
There are a number of important questions arise from this case which should be answered in the public interest.
- Who gave money to the Millennium Forum and indeed other Liberal party fundraising bodies?
- What were the sums of money?
- Did the people who donated this money later gain privileged access to the Minister?
- If so, what issues were discussed and what submissions were made during the meeting?
- And finally, what decisions were subsequently made by the Minister?
This matter has become even more important with the revelations on Four Corners that Amanda Vanstone reversed a deportation order by Immigration Minister Philip Broderick that allowed a man that the Sydney Morning Herald maintains is a mafia boss, Frank Madafferi, to stay in Australia.
This decision was allegedly made after a fundraising function attended by Vanstone and the Madafferi brothers where they made substantial contributions to the Liberal party.
Amanda Vanstone claims that she made the decision on “humanitarian grounds” and that deporting Madafferi would have an adverse effect on his family.
The SMH goes on to state “There is no suggestion Ms Vanstone acted improperly in either case, though confidential police assessments suggest it indicates that her South Australian Senate office had probably been infiltrated by Mafia figures.”
Nor is it any suggestion of improper conduct on the ex-Senator’s part when the son of a prominent Mafia godfather was given work experience at the Australian embassy in Rome during her term as ambassador.
There is only one way to get to the bottom of all these issues and Tony Abbott knows what it is: call a Royal Commission.
He did it over the pink bats issue and he did it over union corruption. Now he should do it over Liberal party fundraising. But don’t bet on it.
However, should Labor Party win the next election and Bill Shorten becomes the next Prime Minister, he may think it’s a very good idea.