Defamation case against WA Premier Mark McGowan continues

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Defamation case against WA Premier Mark McGowan continues

In December of last year, WA Premier Mark McGowan tried to put an end to the defamation proceedings with Queensland businessman Clive Palmer, but Mr Palmer rejected his overtures, the Federal Court heard.

Shortly before Christmas, Mr McGowan made an offer for both sides to drop their proceedings and walk away, with each to bear their own costs, avoiding further expense.

The offer was rejected by Mr Palmer and the case proceeded, with the court finding both sides defamed each other in a scathing judgement handed down last week.

The lawyers for both sides appeared in the Federal Court this morning to argue over costs, with Justice Michael Lee due to deliver his decision later today.

Mr McGowan was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages to Mr Palmer last week, while Mr Palmer was ordered to pay $20,000.

Justice Lee remarked that even the daily cost of Mr McGowan's barrister, Bret Walker SCWalker SC, was higher than the damages awarded.

He said that it's an interesting state of your career when your daily fee exceeds the award of damages.

Mr Walker's response was met with laughter in the courtroom.

He said I'd hate for my honour to think this is the first time that's happened.

The Premier has been at pains to point out that Mr Palmer initiated the defamation action, which has been funded by WA taxpayers.

Justice Lee said that the rejected offer for both sides to walk away would be important in his decision.

The action focused on their war of words over WA's closed border and a mining project of Mr Palmer's.

Justice Lee said that the game has not been worth the candle and was critical of both men for wasting the court's limited resources. Both chose to be part of the hurly burly of political life and should have expected the barbs that came along with it, he said.

The mining magnate was unhappy with the decision by the Premier in April 2020 to close WA's border, which he felt was disruptive to his business interests, and tried to have the closure overturned in court.

Mr McGowan called Palmer an enemy of the state over the course of a series of press conferences in 2020.

The mining magnate told the court that he was brought into hatred, ridicule and contempt, but Justice Lee found the damage to his reputation to be non-existent.

A serial litigant, Mr Palmer was observed by the judge in the witness box to have carried himself with the unmistakable aura of a man assured as to the correctness of his own opinions. The other part of the defamation claim was related to a state agreement held by Mr Palmer's company Mineralogy for the Balmoral South iron ore project.

The development of the project was rejected by the then-Liberal government in 2012 under Colin Barnett, and Mr Palmer had sought $30 million in damages for what he maintained was a breach of contract.

However, under Mr McGowan extraordinary legislation was passed preventing him from seeking compensation, prompting Mr Palmer to call the Premier an outlaw swinging his gun around to protect him and his Attorney General from criminal law. Mr McGowan said these and other comments suggested he had behaved corruptly and prompted him to counter-sue Mr Palmer.