Peter Dutton Just Won A Defamation Lawsuit Over A Six Word “Rape Apologist” Tweet
Refugee activist Shane Bazzi will pay $35,000 in damages.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton has won his defamation lawsuit against refugee activist Shane Bazzi over a tweet that labelled the MP a “rape apologist.” Junkee does not allege that Dutton is, or has ever been, a rape apologist.
Justice Richard White handed down the verdict on Wednesday afternoon, ruling that the tweet made by Bazzi was defamatory in nature. White found that the tweet published did contain the imputation that Dutton excuses rape, and was defamatory. The judge also found that Bazzi has not established the defence of honest opinion and fair comment.
Bazzi will be required to pay $35,000 in damages to Dutton for the tweet.
The six-word tweet was posted late at night only received 13 retweets before it was deleted, gaining very little traction — but resulting in a major defamation lawsuit. The tweet included a link to a news article from 2019, in which Dutton is quoted asserting that refugees on Nauru who made rape complaints were “trying it on” in an attempt to come to Australia.
Bazzi did not give evidence to the court, but his lawyer — Richard Potter — argued he was expressing his honest opinion, which is allegedly based on fact. Honest opinion can be a valid defence to defamation, even if the court agrees that the comment was defamatory.
The verdict comes after Dutton has called for a taxpayer-funded legal fund for MPs to use for defamation cases against members of the public. According to Dutton, this should be a “workplace entitlement.”
“Defamation trials, in particular, which are expensive — and we note that — particularly when a member of parliament is taking an action against a corporate entity, a media organisation or a government body, for example. These are difficult matters for members,’’ Dutton said last month.
Dutton and Bazzi are yet to publicly comment on the verdict.