Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Joe Hockey was the former Federal Member of Parliament for North Sydney and member of the Liberal Party, serving as Treasurer under the Abbott Government from 2013 to 2015. In 2014, Mr. Hockey filed a federal defamation claim against Fairfax Media which he subsequently won and was awarded $200,000 in damages.
Fairfax Media Defamation Case
In May of 2014, Fairfax media published an article with the headline "Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access," which discussed Mr. Hockey's involvement with the Liberal Party's fundraising group, the North Sydney Forum (NSF), and claimed that Mr. Hockey was:
"...offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.
The article was published in Fairfax's The Age, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, and tweeted online. Mr. Hockey subsequently sued Fairfax Media for the publications and online activity regarding the article, claiming that the article "conveyed that he is corrupt and 'accepted bribes paid to influence the decisions he made' as Treasurer."
The judge, with Mr. Hockey being awarded $200,000 and Fairfax Media ordered to pay 15% of Mr. Hockey's legal fees, Mr. Hockey released a statement claiming that his legal actions were for the purpose of standing up to "malicious people":
"After nearly 20 years in public life I took this action to stand up to malicious people intent on vilifying Australians who choose to serve in public office to make their country a better place...Whilst the cost of this action has been considerable for me, my family and friends, it has been far greater for Fairfax Media...I do not regret taking this action.”"
It had been speculated that the costs Mr. Hockey incurred for the legal proceedings vastly outweighed the $200,000 he was awarded in damages, with one source close to the case speculating that both Fairfax Media and Mr. Hockey likely incurred more than $1 million in legal fees.
"Given Hockey’s legal bills were estimated to be $1m, the 15% in costs will give him about $150,000. Combined with his $200,000 damages payment the treasurer could be left about $650,000 out of pocket by the defamation action. The case will have cost Fairfax Media about $1.35m."