Australian politician loses defamation case

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Laurie Oakes , a former journalist at ABC-TV in Australia, is described as a man without compassion.

An Australian politician has won his defamation case against a journalist after a social media exchange.

Federal Minister Kevin Andrews claimed he was insulted and libelled when Laurie Oakes wrote that the minister was “without compassion” and “arrogant” on Twitter.

Mr Andrews asked his daughter to write a letter in a bid to counter the comment, but she chose to contest the libel claim.

Oakes (no relation) was reporting on a visit to a farm by Mr Andrews at the time.

Mr Andrews told the Australian High Court that Oakes had refused to apologise.

The court case ended on Thursday, with a judge dismissing Mr Andrews’ claim that he had been defamed.

He argued the article breached his right to freedom of speech, but the judge said it was free speech for which Mr Andrews owed a “duty of fair dealing”.

“The remarks are not defamatory. The Minister has not been defamed by Mr Oakes,” the judge ruled.

Peter Gray, a barrister for Mr Andrews, had argued that Oakes had made the remarks “to demonstrate an intended epithet” against the minister.

Oakes was also not a public figure in that article, Mr Gray said.

But Judge Robin Gilmour, who was reviewing a jury verdict in a defamation case, said that was a moot point.

The judge said: “There’s no doubt that the ministerial course of conduct was not the correct course. But this is not because of any flaw in the Minister’s position as an in-government politician.”

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