Shane Bazzi Has Won His Appeal Against Peter Dutton In Defamation Case
The court initially ruled in favour of Dutton last November.
Refugee advocate Shane Bazzi has won his appeal in a high-profile defamation case against Defence Minister Peter Dutton.
In November last year, Justice Richard White ruled that a tweet made by Bazzi — in which he labelled Dutton a “rape apologist” was defamatory in nature, noting that Bazzi had not established the honest opinion defence. Junkee does not allege that Dutton is, or has ever been, a rape apologist. Ultimately, Bazzi was ordered to pay $35,000 in damages.
The six-word tweet by Bazzi was published late at night and only received 13 retweets before it was deleted. The tweet included a link to a 2019 article from The Guardian, in which Dutton is quoted claiming that refugees on Nauru who made allegations of rape were “trying it on” in order to be relocated to Australia.
However, in an appeal hearing on Tuesday, the federal court overturned its original decision — ruling that the tweet did not imply that Dutton excuses rape.
Basically, Bazzi’s lawyers argued that his tweet must be interpreted with the added context of the article itself, to which the court agreed.
“He contended that, if the tweet were read as a whole, the reader would have used the Guardian material together with the six word statement to discern that the criticism was directed at Mr Dutton’s remarks about some women making false allegations of rape to obtain a migration outcome,” the full court said on Tuesday. “The Guardian material centres on allegations of rape, not the actual commission of it.
“When that material is read with Mr Bazzi’s six words, the reader would conclude that the tweet was suggesting that Mr Dutton was sceptical about claims of rape and in that way was an apologist. But that is very different from imputing that he excuses rape itself.”
Ultimately, the court dismissed the proceedings, which means Bazzi will no longer be liable for $35,000 in damages.
Bazzi and Dutton are both yet to comment on the ruling.