It is a marvel how often the judicial process is hijacked by
politics and the media.
The latest example is journalist Chris Kenny's defamation
case against the ABC. The case related to a segment on the Chaser
show 'The Hamster Decides' that called Kenny a.. erm...
It all started when Kenny, a serial critic of the ABC, called
for cuts to ABC funding during the last election. The Hamster said
(in effect) 'of course the ABC should get its funding cut when
it broadcasts things like THIS...' and on comes the
dogsnuggling. Poor taste? Maybe. But it was sarcastic and
satirical. It definitely wasn't literal. Did anyone really
think they were suggesting that Kenny likes dogs a little too
Anyway, Kenny sued the ABC for defamation. (Ironic, given that
he is also an advocate of free speech.) The ABC defended the claim.
It even got part of it struck out by the Court. Game on... Or
Enter the politics. The case quickly mutated into a public
debate about the ABC's funding and whether it should spend
taxpayer dollars defending the claim. PM Tony Abbott called the
claim indefensible, conveniently providing support for ABC funding
cuts in the federal budget.
The mainstream media (aka News) were quick to follow suit in
criticising the ABC, maybe forgetting that the quickest way to stop
the ABC's spending was for Kenny to drop the case. The result?
More media and political support for Kenny's original claim
that the ABC deserved funding cuts. Clever.
In the face of this, there seemed little option for the ABC but
to capitulate. It did; settling the claim and running an on-air
apology. The Hamster showed no such contrition. For the ABC, it was
the second on-air apology to a journalist in as many months.
Another free-speech advocate Andrew Bolt received an on-air apology
on Q&A after a guest implied he was racist. Interesting that
these fearless advocates of our right to free speech are not
calling for defamation law reform.
In the Kenny case, politics hijacked the legal proceedings and
the merits of the defamation claim went out the window somewhere
along the way. Politicians and big media players won the case for
him by forcing the ABC to settle.
Abuse of process or stroke of genius? You be the judge.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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