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Palmer rejected defamation resolution bid

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An offer to resolve the defamation proceedings between Mark McGowan and Clive Palmer last year was rejected by the billionaire, a court has been told.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee is set to determine costs arising from the trial after finding Mr Palmer and the West Australian premier had defamed each other.

Judgment will be delivered later on Thursday after both parties argued they should largely bear their own costs.

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Justice Lee last week found neither man had valid defences for a series of defamatory public statements in 2020, when they feuded over Western Australia’s COVID-19 response and a damages claim involving one of Mr Palmer’s mining projects.

He ordered Mr Palmer to pay $20,000 to Mr McGowan, who was in turn directed to pay $5000 to the Queensland businessman.

The judge noted there was a “glaring disproportion” between the damages awarded and the considerable cost of the legal proceedings to both Mr Palmer and WA taxpayers who are set to foot the bill for the premier’s involvement.

On Thursday, Justice Lee revealed Mr McGowan’s lawyers had offered late last year to resolve the proceedings.

Acknowledging “both parties had gone too far” and were unlikely to win outright, they proposed discontinuing the proceedings with both sides bearing their own costs.

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The proposal was rejected by Mr Palmer.

His lawyer Barry Dean said the offer had been made late in proceedings and would have deprived his client of the court’s vindication.

“The main point is that ultimately my client did succeed on his claim,” Mr Dean told the court.

“(He) is entitled to say he was awarded more than nominal damages … in my submission such a finding from the Federal Court is significant.”

Mr McGowan’s barrister Bret Walker SC said the argument was “absurd”.

“It’s hugely in the interests of society and the administration of justice that there be nothing to discourage settling the case,” Mr Walker said.

Justice Lee agreed the offer should be an important consideration when determining the distribution of costs.

“One party made an effort to resolve it and the other party didn’t respond,” he said.

The judge accepted it was Mr Palmer who had launched the proceedings and Mr McGowan’s cross-claim was largely defensive in nature.

Mr Palmer in 2020 sued Mr McGowan, claiming the premier’s public comments – including labelling him an “enemy of the state” – had damaged his reputation.

Justice Lee found while the insults against Mr Palmer could not be considered trivial, they ultimately caused very little damage to his reputation.

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Mr Palmer’s attacks on Mr McGowan had probably only enhanced the premier’s reputation and popularity within his home state, the judge said.

Justice Lee expressed frustration in his findings that the matter had taken up so much of the court’s time and resources.

“The game has not been worth the candle,” he said.

– AAP

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