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Defamation trial resumes between Clive Palmer and Mark McGowan

A 30-year-old defamation case, historical parliamentary documents and Mark McGowan’s “honour” have all been raised in the ongoing defamation case involving the West Australian Premier and Clive Palmer.

The mining magnate is suing Mr McGowan in the Federal Court for defamation over comments he made in 2020, including that he described him as an “enemy of the state”.

Mr McGowan has filed a defamation counterclaim of his own against Mr Palmer.

The trial resumed on Thursday with a short hearing in which the pair’s respective legal teams argued over what additional documents they should be allowed to tender as evidence.

As Mr Palmer’s legal counsel presented his case, the billionaire dinosaur theme park owner turned United Australia Party chairman was readying himself to address journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Federal Court judge Michael Lee told the men’s lawyers he wanted all the documents presented in one chronological bundle for his own purposes and “if, heaven forfend, this case goes elsewhere”.

After hearing from both sides, Justice Lee admitted a document outlining a policy “guideline” that had been tabled in WA Parliament in 1990 at the time of former premier Peter Dowding’s own defamation battle.

CLIVE PALMER NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
Camera IconMr Palmer spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday while his lawyers were in court. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

The guideline was current at the time of the agreement for Mr Dowding to be indemnified – at taxpayers’ expense – for his legal fight, Mr McGowan’s legal counsel told the court.

Justice Lee stared down an argument from Mr Palmer’s barrister, Barry Dean, who objected to the document being tendered in part because Mr McGowan had already been cross-examined in court.

“The failure of either the state or Mr McGowan to produce this document, we say is prima facie … evidence that this document has no relationship whatsoever to the decision,” Mr Dean said.

Justice Lee replied, saying “What you say is, what was said by Mr McGowan to the public concerning this topic was economical with the truth.”

Mr Dean replied: “Yes”.

Mr Dean said there was an allegation before the court that it was “dishonourable” to have the state of WA bear the financial risk for Mr McGowan’s personal action.

Justice Lee said Mr Dean and the rest of Mr Palmer’s legal team could have the opportunity to tender further documents.

He said he would hear them make a case to seek leave to have Mr McGowan answer questions in relation to this particular matter, if they wished to do so.

The trial will resume on Friday, with WA’s Attorney-General, John Quigley, due to reappear before the court.

Justice Lee recalled Mr Quigley after he admitted he had “made mistakes” when he gave evidence early last month.

It was in that hearing on March 9 the court was presented with private text messages between Mr Quigley and Mr McGowan, including one in which the Premier described Mr Palmer as the “worst Australian who’s not in jail”.

In another text message exchange, Mr Quigley referred to Mr Palmer as “the turd” and wrote: “I’ve been awake since 4.15am thinking of ways to beat big, fat Clive”.

The court has heard evidence during the unfolding trial about Mr Palmer and Mr McGowan’s legal fight over the WA Covid-19 hard border, a stalled iron ore project, arbitration and legislation that blocked Mr Palmer’s ability to claim almost $30bn in damages.

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