Friday 27 August 2010

Blake Vs Blog defamation - media coverage

Yesterday there was a raft of media interest surrounding the defamation action against CairnsBlog by Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake.

ABC Far North's Fiona Sewell interviewed myself, and also Peter Black, a law lecturer at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

[Download ABC MP3]

I had many calls and emails yesterday, asking if Council was footing Blake's legal costs.

Yesterday afternoon, Cairns Regional Council's CEO Lyn Russell, discouraged councillors from discussing the issue and speculating if Council was supporting Blake financially.

"You are already aware that the action taken on behalf on Councillor Blake regarding alleged defamation against him by Michael Moore of CairnsBlog," Lyn Russell said. "As this matter is in the hands of the court, it is important that we make no comment on the substance of the matter."

When questioned if Council was paying for Blake's legal defence, Lyn Russell's answer was inconclusive, telling councillors that if they were asked, they should refer that matter to the CEO.

"You will recall that Council delegated this power to the CEO in a resolution on 17th March 2010 [see below]. If asked this question directly, we suggest that you advise this position how we spend ... resources to indemnify councillors or staff and the cost of legal maters has been delegated to the CEO as an operational matter," Lyn Russell told councillors.

The CEO's statement implies Cairns Regional Council is paying for the legal expenses of Alan Blake, however this is not entirely clear. I have put in a question to her, and yet to receive a reply.

The amended motion in March removed the Mayor from the decision process. Discussion was also held to disallow any retrospective claim.

Blake's claim refers to events commencing on August 2009, so it would be improper for council funds to be used. Of course, if Council is paying legal support in this case, it is a matter of fundamental public interest. There's a degree of irony though: speaking out about a local politician, then they use your rates to stop you from talking about them in the first place.

Carrie-Anne Greenbank from WIN News also put together a good overview of the action, and spent a great deal of time discussing the matter with me yesterday.


Simund F said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Simund F said...

The very notion of Blake being compelled to substantiate his suicidal tendencies before a court of law thrills me to the marrow.

This will require in the least, an independent assessment by Qld mental health or an independent psychiatrist otherwise it is just another vacuous claim without test.

Incidentally why does council continue to allow this self proclaimed mentally impaired councilor to continue in office anyway?

Oliver Redlynch said...

If council is in any way funding this action, it is a shocking use of our rates money, and this is definately now in the public interest. I sincerely hope that the Henry Report becomes public knowledge as a result of this investigation (we can hope) - several other councillors must be bricking themselves at THAT prospect.

Bryan Law said...

I've just emailed this to Council's CEO Lyn Russell this morning...

I’ve been aware for some weeks that Councillor Blake has initiated a defamation suit against Michael Moore of Cairns Blog.

I am generally concerned about the incidence of such suits, and their potential for the diminution of free speech and democracy. I intend to speak out against Councillor Blake’s actions which, I believe, are reprehensible.

It never occurred to me that Cairns Regional Council might be assisting Councillor Blake in prosecuting such a suit.

Please inform me soonest whether CRC is or is not providing Councillor Blake with legal or financial assistance in conducting the suit against Mr Moore.

Please be advised that I expect the answer will be no! That CRC is NOT involved in any way with the suit.

If the answer is yes, please be on notice that I am deeply, deeply offended that CRC would allocate rate-payers money to the perversion of free speech and democratic debate in our community about the behaviour of elected Councillors.

Yours sincerely

Bryan Law

Bryan Outlaw said...

The CEO is likely to disregard completely the views of the fat worthless Bryan Law as he's a convict that has yet to pay his debt to the community. And Moore is off base contacting the CEO and asking for information about the suit - this borders on stalking and harassment. Perhaps council should consider asking the QPS to file criminal charges against Moore. That's what's involved in my opinion.

No Blake lover said...

Mike Moore was always going to get done for defamation. He allows comments on here bordering on the criminal, and deserves to be taken down a peg or two. There's not one law for Mike Moore and one for everyone else. What has saved his arse up until now is the practise of contributors to post using aliases, had some used their real names Moore would have been in trouble long ago.

Queenie said...

No Blake Lover (which indeed you may be), the laws regarding blogs & contributors are very new.

Additionally, it would seem to me that although at times very cheeky, all of what Mike has published about Blake over the years has its basis in reality. This is what makes this defamation case almost nonsensical.

Yes, it would indeed be wonderful if the buried Henry report could be exhumed for public examination. It did cost us all $17,000 after all. Transparency is one of your main keywords, Madame Val. What about the Henry Report.

To me, the gagging of councillors on the matter of solicitors payment by Lyn Russell smacks of Nanny State. If Council is paying, then tell us. If Blake is paying, tell us. Pure & simple. Never forget, all you Council boffins, that WE ARE PAYING YOUR WAGES.

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I reckon Sigmund F above has a good point - if poor Alan is so depressed & unable to continue his full role as councillor, why is he allowed to continue?

Than again, if he is suspended on duty, will it be Blakey having a nice bit of a hol on our wages. eh?

But seriously, if he's really not the full quid at the moment, why is he being allowed to function as a Councillor?

MaryO said...

Hey MM,
Just listened to your radio interview - thanks for making it available here at CB.

BTW, re. your argument that public officials should expect their conduct to be made subject to public scrutiny, note that a number of previous law reform proposals also endorse this view.

For more details, see this doc.

For example, the right of politicians, public servants or public officials to sue for defamation for comments made about their conduct in office or their fitness for office (unless they could prove malice), should be removed from the Defamation Act 2005,

The very same recommendations has also been made in relation to the rights of ALL corporations to sue under the Defamation Act 2005 - and about the rights of individuals (e.g. company directors or officers) to sue for comments about corporate behavior.

Destiny said...

I disagree with Bryan Law on just about everything including what I see as his childish and attention seeking vendetta against Desley Boyle, but surely what he did was protest - civil disobedience. He is no more a criminal than Ghandi or Martin Luther King or, closer to home, Simon Townsend.
Much of what we now value in our society was achieved through protest. Even when we disagree with what is being protested we should defend the protest - democracy is for everyone - not just the people we agree with.

I agree Mr Law is fat, but was unaware that rendered his opinion worthless - that must mean expensive by elections to replace all the fat bastards who just won election. Abbott must've known the no more fat bastards policy was coming - I didn't think he got rid of that big fat bastard over the anti muslim comments.

And while I disagree with Bryan Law on much, I actually agree with every word of his post on this subject. Freedom of speech protects all of us, and, is for all of us. This is not a crowded theatre and no one called 'Fire!'. It's a blog and people questioned the actions of an elected official - if some of it was nasty, mean spirited and offensive, perhaps that is where the level of invective aimed at the Mayor since the moment she put her hand up for election has taken us.

And as many have pointed out - you don't hear Val crying - she's a big girl - she gets on with her job.

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Taking a legal stand with a scumbag who cannot read or write seems to be the order of the day for the CRC, as well as the old Cairns City Council.
What Blakey seems to have grossly forgotten is the basic rule of school: "Sticks & Stones may break our bones but names can never hurt us".
Wake up Blakey, get a life, and so too should you "legal" people who are involved in this scurrilous attitude from a person in public life, a person wasting the Cairs people's time and money.
We've suffered enough at the hands of another scumbag(KB), so take your newly found bag of dirty tricks and shove it, or I will most certainly get involved and take you ALL to the cleaners.
Mr Blake, I send this warning now
to both you and your backers, Lay off! You do not want to incur the wrath of a Witnessing-Judge.

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Tell ya what Blakey! I challenge you to shut your mouth and live on my Disability Pension for a month, and I'll do your job for a month, on your wages.
At the end of one month, we'll see who has achieved more for the community, judged by the community.
The loser must NEVER EVER be, at any time, involved in Council matters again.
Failing that idea, I challenge you to a public debate concerning CairnsBlog's existence, and any other Cairns matter, as well as your own!

Lisa Robbie said...

How many defamatory comments have been made against Gillard & Abbott!!! We don't see them filing a suit against every blogger, tweeter, facebooker, current affairs show, "Chaser" or other comedy act on TV.


Ours is a nation that is proud to have such liberties as democracy & free speech. It will be a sad day when the threat of defamation proceedings gags the tax-payer, our right to question the government & our deserved right to free speech.

If you want to enter the public domain & land yourself in politics then you need to be tougher skinned & be sure to keep your nose squeaky clean.

Blake & CRC need to take a long hard look at their actions here. What sort of precedent are they trying to set? AND quite possibly at OUR expense.

This defamation suit is outrageous. Blake says he has faced "ridicule and contempt, suffered hurt and embarrassment and developed suicidal tendencies". If he is that emotionally unstable then he is obviously not up for the Council job since it is a position that is under tight public scrutiny & attracts "knockers". I don't see that he can adequately represent the people in his Division, and for his own emotional & psychological health should resign immediately.

I am not intimidated by the CRC & I am not afraid to put my name to my words.

Alison Alloway said...

Well said Lisa. I, too, am just absolutely astounded at this claim. The Mayor, Val Schier, has been subjected to the worst pernicious, villification and personal attacks ever witnessed in this city. Alan Blake himself, is not above smearing others. "The Cairns Post" on Saturday 28th August, contains an article, "Cultural precinct in doubt". Blake is quoted as saying "residents did not want "iconic monuments to political egos." Just who are these residents? Cr. Blake never asked me for my opinion. I checked with my neighbours, sisters and friends. He never asked them either. Is Cr. Blake referring to the people who have waited for almost 40 years to have a modern MUSEUM in Cairns? Is Cr. Blake aware the Cairns Cultural Precinct provided for a brand new state-of-the art MUSEUM which many people in Cairns have been lobbying for, for DECADES???
I am appalled that a Councillor has repeated such a pernicious, defamatory imputation and moreover made it arrogantly on our behalf without canvassing us ratepayers for our opinions.

Bryan's wannabe lawyer said...

And what bout Bryan Law? He could live handsomely off all his defamation litigation pickings. But we all know he's bigger than that.

And he doesn't give a stuff anyway. But at the same time, someone who doesn't really give a stuff and sue anyway defamation as damage is assumed.

All they have to do is pick the most financially rewarding 12 month period, then go for the jugular.

So Bryan, which person here has called you "fat' the most in the last 12 months - and has the deepest pockets???

Jolly Bryan Law said...

Sue someone for defamation? Never have. Never will.

I figure that switched on people know enough to distinguish between truth and lies. The opinions of switched off people just don't matter.

I appreciate what my "wannabe lawyer" is saying, but to the extent that litigation damages free speech, it hurts us all.

Besides, I always thought "fat" was a synonym for "Jolly", and a mark of affection from my many fans. I'm sure BO is angling to have my love child.

MB said...

LOL, well said Jolly Bryan.
The list of examples of zero transperency from our CRC is growing exponentially.