Aussie political figure prevails in defamation case

Written by By Zoran Milich, CNN

A high-profile Australian political figure has successfully defended a defamation case brought against him by a company that claimed his comment on social media had damaged their reputation.

Patrick Minford, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, was an advisor to the Australian Liberal Party between 2012 and 2014.

His name, and that of a company he ran, was dragged into a court battle earlier this year when Independent News and Media Limited filed a lawsuit in 2016 after Minford published a tweet calling the company’s president, John Singleton, “the dearest, kindest and most gracious man I have ever met.”

Barrister Paul Kent told the Sydney District Court on Friday that Minford did not intend to ’cause distress’ to the company, named “2W3,” but “put the question” in his tweet, posing the “serious question.”

2W3 paid a settlement of A$190,000, or more than $185,000, in late October.

3 days ago 2w3 paid A$190k in compensation today their lawyer Paul Kent gave the statement of claim to Judge Heaney. This is likely the very same settlement but a lower sum to avoid any complications with the Constitutional damages law in Australia #CrownHighCourt — lollymorgan (@lollymorgan) December 16, 2017

Social media link to defamation suit

Minford’s tweet, sent in May 2016, followed a series of social media posts on Macquarie Radio, from the Sydney station 2GB.

On one of those posts, Minford had referred to 2W3 as “dirty,” “anti-British,” and “anti-everything, anti-American.”

The tweet has since been deleted.

After being contacted by the station, the company’s complaint initially centered on 2W3’s failure to take legal action in response to its online campaign of harassment and false allegations against it.

However, a defamation suit was filed following an interview on public radio program The World Today last year.

A spokesperson for the International Centre for Journalism, which hosted the radio program, confirmed to CNN that Singleton had retracted his allegations against 2W3 in the radio segment.

Singleton told the audience on his radio show that “the moral of the story is that a human being never argues with others using language designed to hurt … and there is no onus on a person to demonstrate the person is right.”

‘Verbal bullying’

During a court hearing earlier this year, lawyer Tony Howe, who represented 2W3, told the court that Minford’s tweet “was the grossest thing imaginable … it said the person was an extremely violent, hateful, dirty person.”

Howe added that the tweet’s comments about “violence, racism, homophobia, and dirtiness” were “intended to do the same to Mr. Singleton’s health, business, and reputation.”

According to Hawkesbury Supreme Court documents released by Minford earlier this year, a defamation suit against Singleton began to follow, although the legal proceeding is still ongoing.

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