Palmer and McGowan stoush set for court


The context of comments made by WA Premier Mark McGowan about Clive Palmer will be a focus of the billionaire’s defamation lawsuit set to begin at the end of this month.

Palmer is suing the premier in the Federal Court claiming public comments, including labelling him the “enemy of West Australia”, had damaged the businessman’s reputation.

The premier has lodged a counter-claim claiming Mr Palmer defamed him in several interviews.

McGowan’s legal representative told an interlocutory hearing on Wednesday some of Mr Palmer’s argument related to “very small passages from a broader press conference”.

Justice Michael Lee asked for video clips and transcripts of what both parties say is the relevant material to be provided to the court.

He told legal representatives he wanted to “sweep away the low hanging fruit” so he could concentrate on what really mattered when the trial began.

Justice Lee also made rulings for and against each party on documents requested by Mr Palmer’s legal team that WA’s state counsel Alan Sefton argued could not be disclosed under legal privilege.

Attorney-General John Quigley had been “communicating in a number of different capacities” in correspondence with Mr McGowan, Justice Lee said regarding some documents that he ordered to be disclosed.

The judge said the the messages might be about political strategy rather than giving legal advice.

Earlier Justice Lee said he would not deny anyone access to his court room because of their vaccination status.

Mr Palmer’s lawyers understood the court’s protocols required anyone coming into the room to be vaccinated, but the businessman has revealed publicly he was not vaccinated.

Justice Lee said this was incorrect.

No application has been made for Mr McGowan to give evidence remotely.

Justice Lee earlier stressed his “firm preference” for litigants, particularly the parties and in defamation cases, was to give evidence in person.

Background to the case includes claims relating to the circumstances surrounding WA legislation which prevented Mr Palmer and his company Mineralogy from suing the state for billions of dollars.

The trial is due to start in Sydney on January 31.

Mr Palmer in October lost his High Court battle with WA over the legislation preventing him and his company Mineralogy from suing the state.

He was seeking up to $30 billion from WA taxpayers, claiming legislation, introduced by the McGowan Labor government and hastily passed with the support of opposition parties, is unconstitutional.