Two years after dubbing Clive Palmer an ‘enemy of the state’, Mark McGowan has learnt whether his defamation defence held up in court.
On Tuesday, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee delivered his long-awaited verdict in a defamation trial between the mining billionaire and Western Australia’s premier.
Both were found guilty of defamation with the premier receiving a slightly larger $20,000 payout, compared to the $5,000 awarded to Mr Palmer.
Justice Lee rejected all of their defences and found they both defamed the other.
Premier Mark McGowan was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay Clive Palmer $5,000
Clive Palmer was also found guilty and ordered to pay $20,000
Mr Palmer in 2020 sued Mr McGowan, claiming public comments the Labor premier had made about him had damaged his reputation.
The Queensland businessman was seeking aggravated damages which could’ve allowed for a payout above the $432,500 cap.
Mr Palmer accused Mr McGowan of being consumed by malice and seeking to ‘blacken his name at every opportunity’.
Mr McGowan, who counter-sued for defamation, made his own appeal for aggravated damages.
The premier claimed qualified privilege as a defence. It requires proof there was a legal, social or moral duty for him to say those things.
Mr Palmer defended various comments he made on the basis of qualified privilege, and substantial and contextual truth.
At the trial’s conclusion in April, Justice Michael Lee said it was possible neither side would be able to make out any defences.
He flagged each man could receive a nominal damages sum, describing them as political combatants with entrenched reputations.
The defamation bid is one of several legal challenges Mr Palmer has pursued against the WA premier, including a failed bid in the High Court to have the state’s coronavirus-related hard border closure deemed unconstitutional.
Mr Palmer (pictured with his wife Anna) repeatedly took Mr McGowan and the WA government to court during the Covid pandemic
Mr McGowan wrote in reference to Mr Palmer: ‘He’s the worst Australian who’s not in jail’ in personal text messages to attorney-general John Quigley
It emerged in 2020 that Mr Palmer was seeking up to $30 billion in damages over a 2012 decision by the former Liberal state government not to assess his proposed Balmoral South iron ore project.
The McGowan government subsequently rushed through extraordinary legislation to prevent Mr Palmer from suing the state.
In his evidence, Mr Palmer said he was scared because provisions in the legislation protected the government from criminal prosecution.
Referring to the fictional character James Bond and his ‘licence to kill’, Mr Palmer told the court: ‘I didn’t know what the limits might be.’
Any suggestion Mr Palmer had a genuine fear for his physical safety was ‘inherently incredible’, Mr McGowan’s lawyers said.
In private text messages made public during the trial, Mr McGowan described Mr Palmer as ‘the worst Australian who’s not in jail’.
His attorney-general John Quigley privately labelled Mr Palmer a ‘big fat liar’.