Treasurer to test “politics” defence to defamation

Commonwealth Treasurer Joe Hockey is suing the Fairfax media company for defamation over articles published in its newspapers under the headline, “Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access”. The articles described expensive fundraising dinners that allowed people to secretly contribute up to $22,000 to the Liberal Party, bypassing donation disclosure laws. Hockey claims the articles suggested he was corrupt, and that he has been “greatly injured, shunned and avoided” as a result. If the matter goes to trial (which is by no means certain), it will require the court to apply the precedent set by Lange v ABC: publication of defamatory matter is protected if it relates to political issues, is reasonable, and is not motivated by malice.