Daily News Roundup

June 14, 2018

Image: ABC News

Rebel Wilson’s defamation slashed by over $3 million

Actress Rebel Wilson’s record defamation payout from magazine publisher Bauer Media has been slashed from $4.5 million to just $600,000 by Victoria’s Court of Appeal.

The court set aside the decision to give Ms Wilson around $3.9 million for economic losses, and reduced the $650,000 compensation figure awarded to the actress for non-economic loss by $50,000.

The previous ruling granted her the $3.9 million figure on the basis she had missed out on film roles as a result of the defamatory articles.

However the Court of Appeal found “there was no basis in the evidence for making any award of damages for economic loss.

It found the previous judge, Justice John Dixon of the Supreme Court, had relied on evidence from Ms Wilson and Hollywood agents to draw the conclusion that the actress had lost job opportunities due to the articles.

“For a considerable number of reasons, the critical inferences drawn by the judge could not be upheld,” the judgment said.

“It followed that the judge’s award of damages for economic loss had to be set aside.”

The original damages sum awarded to Ms Wilson last September was the largest defamation payment ever ordered by an Australian court, and several media organisations questioned whether the decision set a new precedent for defamation payments.

In its appeal against the decision, Bauer Media argued that the $4.5 million payout was excessive and should be set aside due to errors in fact and law.

Wilson was not present for the judgment but she took to Twitter the night before, saying she had already won the case.

“I’m away on location in Europe filming right now,” she tweeted on Wednesday night.

“As I’ve said before, I have already won the case and this is unchallenged!

“This case was never about the money for me.”

Wilson, who starred in the Pitch Perfect films as well as How To Be Single and Bridesmaids, has said she will give away the damages to charity and to support the Australian film industry.

Bauer Media did not challenge the jury’s defamation finding in its appeal and sought only for the damages to be reduced.

The Court of Appeal is yet to determine costs.


Tumultuous 18 months for One Nation

Former Pauline Hanson loyalist Brian Burston will quit One Nation and sit as an independent in the Senate after a spectacular falling-out with his party leader.

The New South Wales senator’s departure from the party was widely anticipated after he was embroiled in a bitter feud with Senator Hanson last month, reports the ABC..

Senator Hanson accused Senator Burston of“stabbing her in the back” over the Government’s proposed company tax cuts, and said he was trying to defect to other political parties.

The One Nation leader also called on him to quit Parliament — but Senator Burston has brushed that demand aside and will remain in the Upper House.

Senator Burston told Fairfax Media that One Nation “should be called Gone Nation” and painted Senator Hanson as an autocratic leader.

“There is no democracy in the party — every single decision made is made by Pauline Hanson, and if you don’t agree then you’re gone,” he said.

His decision means One Nation is now reduced to only two senators in the Senate, significantly reducing its bargaining power.

Other conservative crossbench senators have been courting Senator Burston, and hope that he will join them in a loose alliance in order to boost their influence in negotiations with the Government.

His resignation caps a tumultuous and disastrous 18 months for One Nation.

Three men — Senator Burston, Malcolm Roberts and Rod Culleton — won Senate seats under One Nation’s banner in the 2016 election.

But none of them remain in the Upper House as One Nation senators.

Mr Culleton stormed out of the party at the end of 2016 before being booted from the Senate by the High Court because of a bankruptcy case.

Mr Roberts was also kicked out of the Senate by the High Court after being embroiled in the dual citizenship scandal.

He was replaced by Fraser Anning, who left the party almost as soon as he arrived in Canberra.

Senator Anning accused Senator Hanson of verbally abusing him and has now joined Bob Katter’s Australian Party.

Only West Australian One Nation senator Peter Georgiou — who replaced Senator Culleton — remains loyal to Senator Hanson.


More tests for migrants on the table

The Turnbull government is considering a basic conversational English test as a requirement for migrants to becoming Australian citizens.

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge is expected to announce the plans, after consultation with migrant and business groups, in a speech to the Sydney Institute today.

“This would become a stronger incentive to learn the language as permanent residency is the most important objective for many,” he’s expected to say.

It comes after the Federal Government tried to introduce an English test as part of the citizenship test last year but many raised concerns it was too tough and it has not been supported by the Senate.

According to The Australian, the government is now considering an easier conversational English test, but this would apply to everyone wanting to become a permanent resident.

Australia is approaching a million non-English speakers and the increase is concerning, Mr Tudge believes.

“This is particularly so, given the concentration of non-English speakers in particular pockets, largely in Melbourne and Sydney,” he’s expected to say.

It’s not the first time Mr Tudge has flagged the importance of English for migrants.

In March he suggested migrants must demonstrate they’ve made an effort to integrate before becoming citizens, steps which could include joining a Rotary Club or a soccer team.

The government has been in talks with crossbench MPs to garner support for changes to citizenship laws that were shot down in the Senate last year.


Disarmament to occur in next two-and-a-half years

The United States hopes to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea within the next two-and-a-half years, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, issuing a joint statement afterward that reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” and gave US guarantees of security to North Korea.

But the brief document from the two leaders’ historic meeting provided no details on when Pyongyang would give up a nuclear weapons program that has advanced enough to threaten the US, or how the dismantling might be verified.

Mr Pompeo was in Seoul on Wednesday to brief South Korean officials on the summit.

Speaking to a small group of reporters and asked if he would like to accomplish major nuclear disarmament within Mr Trump’s current term, which ends on January 20, 2021, Mr Pompeo replied:

“Oh yes, most definitively. Absolutely … you used the term major, major disarmament, something like that? We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the two-and-a-half years.

“I am … confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification.”

He added that the initial agreement between Mr Trump and Mr Kim had not captured all of what had been agreed by the two sides.


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