WA Prime Minister Mark McGowan tried to end the defamation lawsuit with Queensland businessman Clive Palmer in December last year, but Mr Palmer turned down his offer, the federal court has heard.
Most important points:
- Mark McGowan had urged Clive Palmer to comply and avoid further charges
- The Prime Minister’s Attorney’s Daily Fees Are More Than His Payout, It Has Been Found
- Judge Michael Lee will make his decision on the charges in court later today
Shortly before Christmas, Mr McGowan made an offer to both sides to discontinue their proceedings and walk away, with each bearing their own costs, avoiding further charges.
But the offer was rejected by Mr. Palmer and the case moved on, with the court finding that both sides defamed each other in a damning verdict handed down last week.
Lawyers from both sides appeared in Federal Court this morning to discuss the charges, and Judge Michael Lee will make his decision later in the day.
Mr. McGowan was ordered last week to pay $5,000 in damages to Mr. Palmer, while Mr. Palmer was ordered to pay Mr. McGowan $20,000.
Highlighted daily attorney fees
During this morning’s arguments, Judge Lee noted that even the daily costs of Mr McGowan’s attorney Bret Walker SC exceeded the damages awarded.
“It’s an interesting state of your career that you reach when your daily compensation exceeds the award of damages,” he said.
Mr Walker’s response was met with laughter in court.
“I’d hate to think this is the first time this has happened,” he said.
Mr McGowan’s case has been funded by WA taxpayers, but the Prime Minister has gone to great lengths to point out that Mr Palmer initiated the defamation campaign.
Justice Lee said the rejected offer for both sides to run away would be important in his decision.
Waste of judicial resources
The smear campaign centered on their war of words about WA’s closed border and a Mr. Palmer mining project.
Judge Lee was scathing in his criticism of both men for wasting the court’s limited resources, telling the men, “The game hasn’t been worth the candle.”
Both chose to be part of the “hurried pot” of political life and should have expected the barbs that came with it, he said.
The mining magnate was unhappy with the Prime Minister’s decision to close WA’s border in April 2020, which he said was disruptive to his business interests, and sought to reverse the closure in court.
During a series of press conferences in 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, Mr. McGowan called Mr. Palmer an “enemy of the state” for his actions.
The mining magnate told the court that this caused him to be brought into “hatred, ridicule and contempt,” but Judge Lee found the damage to his reputation nonexistent.
Mr Palmer, a serial litigator, was noted by the judge on the witness stand as “behaving with the unmistakable appearance of a man assured of the correctness of his own opinions”.
‘Foreigner waves his gun’
The other portion of the defamation claim related to a state agreement held by Mr. Palmer’s Mineralogy company for the Balmoral South iron ore project.
The development of the project was rejected in 2012 by the then-Liberal government under Colin Barnett, and Mr. Palmer had sought $30 million in damages for what he believed was a breach of contract.
However, under Mr McGowan, extraordinary legislation was passed that prevented him from seeking damages, prompting Mr Palmer to call the Prime Minister “an outlaw who wields his gun to protect him and his Attorney General from the criminal law”.
Mr McGowan said these and other comments suggested he had behaved corruptly and prompted him to sue Mr Palmer.