John Barilaro boasting about pork barrelling government grants may be “the wrong thing to do”, but it does not show the 뉴 사우스 웨일즈 deputy premier is a corrupt conman, his lawyers have argued in court.
On Friday the federal court held a lengthy pre-trial hearing in the deputy premier’s defamation case against the Youtube comedian Jordan Shanks.
He is suing Shanks, who uses the nom de plume Friendlyjordies, for defamation over videos posted to YouTube that the New South Wales Nationals leader claims brought him into “public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt”.
The hearing had two elements: first, whether two key defamatory imputations at the centre of the Barilaro claim should be removed from the case, and whether swathes of Shanks’ defence in the case should be struck out.
On the latter point, Barilaro’s high-profile defamation barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, launched a wholesale attack on Shanks’ case, labelling large sections of the defence “hopeless”, “rubbish” and saying parts of it “should not have been written down”.
Shanks will in part plead truth in answer to Barilaro’s claim that the videos portrayed him as a “corrupt conman”. As part of the defence, Shanks’ legal team has raised the deputy premier’s public statements about the expenditure of a $47m regional arts grant fund which was overwhelmingly spent in Coalition seats.
“Well my name is John Barilaro, call me Pork-Barilaro, and I have no apology because at the end of the day I will stand up and fight for our communities,” Barilaro was quoted as saying in May last year.
The defence also lists a series of other decisions, including $78,000 which was given to the Monaro Panthers Football Club where Barilaro was the president for eight years and whose coach was a former business partner, and a $39m upgrade of a road in Oallen, NSW, which the document claims benefitted one of his properties.
But Chrysanthou told the court on Friday that key elements of the YouTuber’s defence were “misconceived”, and failed to rise to the defamatory imputations claimed by the deputy premier. None of them, Chrysanthou said, “are capable of justifying the string of corrupt conman”.
On the pork-barrelling claim, Chrysanthou argued that while people might think the practice “is the wrong thing to do” it was “incapable” of showing he was a corrupt conman.
“There’s no subterfuge, no dishonesty, no fraud, according to that particular this is something my client openly and proudly does," 그녀가 말했다. “It doesn’t fall within the notion of a corrupt conman.”
Similarly, on the issue of the grant given to the Monaro Panthers, Chrysanthou said: “How does a conflict of interest show ‘corrupt conman’?”.
“What we have here your honour is Mr Shanks having a series of complaints about my client, in relation to which my client has not sued, and putting [those] forward [NS] particulars for much lower imputations because they can’t justify the words [Shanks] actually used," 그녀가 말했다.
Shanks has raised about $1m to fund his defence, as well as separate criminal charges laid against his producer, Kristo Langker, after Barilaro complained to police that the 21-year-old stalked or intimidated him on two occasions.
He intends to seek a jury trial for the case – incredibly rare in a federal court matter – and on Friday his barrister, Matthew Collins QC, flagged that intention by arguing the “ordinary, reasonable” member of the public would interpret Barilaro’s actions – and whether they rose to the imputation of “corrupt conman” differently from barristers like himself, Chrysanthou, or justice Steven Rares.
“An ordinary Australian would think this sort of behaviour stinks to high heaven and ought to be disclosed,” Collins said of the claims about Barilaro’s grant to the football club.
Chrysanthou responded later: “I don’t know about [Collins] and your honour but I feel pretty ordinary and I know what conman is and so does everyone else is. It’s an ordinary English word. A conman is not someone who voted for something and might have had a conflict of interest”.
The other part of Friday’s pre-trial hearing related to Shanks’ attempt to have key elements of Barilaro’s case struck out because arguing that the claims are true would impinge on parliamentary privilege.
In his claim Barilaro alleges Shanks defamed him by suggesting he committed perjury nine times and should be jailed. Shanks is attempting to mount a truth defence to the first imputation and a defence of honest opinion to the second.
The basis of Shanks’ mooted truth defence to the imputations relates to evidence that was given by Barilaro during a parliamentary hearing in 2018. The court heard Barilaro told the parliament he was not responsible for signing off on a $3.3m investment in an oyster farm.
당시, Barilaro told the hearing the funding decision was made at “arm’s length of government”, despite documents later showing he signed off on the decision.
In his submissions to justice Steven Rares, Collins said Shanks was “champing at the bit” to prove the imputation that Barilaro had committed perjury nine times were “a statement of fact and substantially true”, but that parliamentary privilege meant he was unable to argue that case.
“In order to establish the material is substantially true we must establish the statements [made in the hearing] are false,”그는 말했다
“That necessarily involves questioning or impeaching them.”
It would require an act of parliament to revoke privilege, something Collins said his side had requested the deputy premier to arrange unsuccessfully.
결과적으로, Collins argued the imputations should be struck out.
“Mr Barilaro has pleaded two imputations which we cannot defend because of the existence of parliamentary privilege,”그는 말했다.
“We say that is an abuse … in our submission this proceeding as far as it concerns those two imputations must be stopped unless and until Mr Shanks is allowed to rely on material that is subject to privilege.”
Justice Rares reserved his decision until a later date.