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New twist in Palmer, McGowan battle

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Mining magnate Clive Palmer has moved to drop “very large parts” of his defence in a defamation battle with the West Australian Premier after he lost a separate High Court case.

But Mark McGowan wants even more of Mr Palmer’s justifications struck out, with the WA’s leader’s barrister arguing many would be “futile” at trial.

Both men are suing each other in the Federal Court over barbs traded in the media and are set to face off at a hearing listed for January next year.

Camera IconClive Palmer sued Mark McGowan for defamation in late 2020. Credit: News Regional Media

Mr Palmer struck first when he claimed Mr McGowan caused him to be brought into “hatred, ridicule and contempt” when he referred to the Queenslander in a press conference as an “enemy of the state”.


The Premier then launched his own counterclaim, alleging Mr Palmer defamed him in several interviews, including by suggesting he accepted bribes from Chinese interests.

Lyndelle Barnett, Mr McGowan’s barrister, told the court on Monday that particular comment was a “serious allegation made of a sitting premier” and claimed nothing in Mr Palmer’s filed evidence could justify it.

“There is just nothing of any gravity there that could ever meet that imputation,” she said.

Mark McGowan launched a countersuit a month later. Jackson Flindell/The West Australian
Camera IconMark McGowan launched a countersuit a month later. Jackson Flindell/The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

Mr Palmer’s barrister Peter Gray told the court his client sought to delete swathes of his defence after he lost a High Court bid challenging the legality of so-called “anti-Palmer” legislation passed by the West Australian government last year.

He unsuccessfully claimed a new law, which effectively blocked him from seeking multibillion-dollar compensation over a stalled mining project in the Pilbara, was unconstitutional.

Mr Gray said the High Court’s decision to rule against Mr Palmer had rendered “very large parts” of the documents in the defamation proceedings obsolete.

Ms Barnett said her client asked that dozens of further paragraphs also be dropped: “We say the amendment would be futile because more should be struck out.”

Among Mr Palmer’s remaining claims were that Mr McGowan abused his position as premier to introduce legislation “designed to protect his government from criminal liability”, the court was told.

“With respect we don’t see how that can ever amount to abuse,” Ms Barnett said. “As the Premier that’s his role to introduce legislation to the parliament.”

She said her client wanted particulars eight through to 106 of Mr Palmer’s contextual truth defence to also be removed.

Justice Michael Lee ordered the parties prepare submissions ahead of a hearing date to determine if Mr Palmer can proceed with his amended defence set for November 11.

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