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Anti-mining politician, resources magnate both guilty of defamation

Mark McGowan
Premier Mark McGowan on 25 August 2020

A mining mogul and an elected official who opposes a $4 billion development unlawfully harmed each other’s reputation, a judge ruled.

The Federal Court of Australia recently found both Mineralogy founding chairman Clive Palmer and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan guilty of defamation.

Justice Michael Lee criticised the pair for wasting taxpayer money and judicial resources. McGowan and Palmer allegedly exchanged multiple slanderous statements in 2020 about the Golden State’s harsh pandemic response and damages concerning the latter’s stalled Balmoral South Iron Ore Project, 80km southwest of Karratha.

Lee awarded the mining magnate $5000 in compensation while the premier received $20,000. However, legal expenses are expected to exceed these amounts by many times.

“The game has not been worth the candle,” the justice said according to the Australian Associated Press.

“[Politicians should only sue if they suffer] real reputational damage and significant hurt to feelings.”

Palmer accused McGowan of calling him an “enemy of the state” and trying to “blacken his name at every opportunity”. McGowan responded by counter suing the billionaire for alleging corruption plus aggravated damages.

However, Lee believes these statements are unlikely to have significantly damaged the entrepreneur’s business reputation. He also found the premier’s image probably won more voter approval despite initially feeling hurt.

Palmer previously sought up to $30B in compensation from the previous State Government’s 2012 decision against assessing the project. However, McGowan enacted legislation to prevent the businessman from suing WA.

“I did not want to be put in this position but everything I have done has been an attempt to protect the interests of WA,” the premier said according to the newswire agency.

Palmer is very unhappy about the State Government’s handling of his complaints.

“It is highly disturbing that this is how the WA Government acts,” he said on Twitter.

Legal expenses are expected to be discussed further in court on 11 August 2022.

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