The Defence Minister has secured a major legal victory over a refugee advocate who accused him of being a ‘rape apologist’.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton has been awarded $35,000 in damages over a tweet by a refugee advocate which accused him of being a rape apologist.
The Defence Minister sued activist Shane Bazzi for defamation over the since-deleted tweet, which was posted on February 25 and stated: “Peter Dutton is a rape apologist”.
“The tweet did convey Mr Dutton excused rape,” Justice Richard White told the Federal Court on Wednesday.
Mr Dutton earlier told the court he was no stranger to online criticism, but a tweet labelling him a rape apologist “went to a different level”.
The member for Dickson maintained the tweet falsely painted him as someone who condoned and excused rape.
But Mr Bazzi had argued he didn’t suggest that at all.
Mr Bazzi’s barrister Richard Potter SC had argued in court that: “Words must be interpreted as to their meaning within the context they were made.”
That context included a 2019 Guardian Australia article about Mr Dutton’s comments on refugee and asylum seeker women detained on Nauru, which Mr Bazzi linked to in his tweet, the court heard.
Mr Potter also told the court Mr Dutton had given a press conference that morning related to Brittany Higgins’ allegation that she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.
During that press conference, Mr Dutton said he was not provided with the “he said, she said” details of the Higgins investigation.
Mr Potter suggested the ordinary reader of Mr Bazzi’s tweet might have thought Mr Dutton’s statements about women on Nauru “reflected a certain cold detachment or lack of empathy”.
But they would not have concluded he condones rape, Mr Potter said.
Mr Dutton’s barrister Nick Ferrett QC said the meaning of Mr Bazzi’s tweet was clear and his words deliberately chosen.
More to come