Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax for a series of articles, one of which said he was a “Treasurer for Sale”.
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‚Ä¶ in that¬†story you can run Hockey’s claim he knew nothing ‚Ä¶ 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 ‚Ä¶ after the day we’ve had, I ain’t¬†going to run this ‚Äď 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 ‚Ä¶ given what¬†Andrew and I endured last week with Hockey, I want to have this nailed¬†to the cross in more ways than one ‚Ä¶ keep digging Sean‚Ä¶ 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.”