ACT News

Mike Kelly seeks to amend his defence in pollsters defamation case

A defamation battle between a former Labor politician and conservative pollsters over a tweet is set for a new phase next month, 

Mike Kelly's application for leave to amend his defence against a lawsuit brought by Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor has been set for hearing in the Federal Court on December 11.

Mike Kelly after losing the 2013 election.
Mike Kelly after losing the 2013 election. Photo: Rohan Thomson

But the substantive case is set to continue into 2015 – more than three years after the alleged defamation took place.

The long-running battle was sparked by a tweet in October 2011, when the former member for Eden-Monaro accused the pollsters of launching "push polling" in Australia.

The tweet read: "always grate [sic] to hear moralising from Crosby, Textor, Steal and Gnash. The mob who introduced push polling to Aus."

Push polling involves the use of loaded questions to sway the outcome of a poll.

The founders of lobbying firm Crosby Textor started legal action, claiming the tweet defamed them.

But Dr Kelly's legal team argue the tweet suggests the pair are hypocrites.

The case has meandered since papers were first filed, with argument over jurisdiction.

In February 2013, Dr Kelly lost a High Court bid to have the case thrown out, on the basis that the Federal Court did not have jurisdiction.

In May 2013, the pollsters' lawyers said they would drop the case if Dr Kelly apologised.

Dr Kelly's legal team originally filed a defence of  "contextual truth", whereby a person accused of defamation can argue their publication conveyed an allegation even more damaging to the plaintiff's reputation than anything the plaintiff has pleaded.

The Federal Court on Monday also heard that Dr Kelly's lawyers had filed papers that pleaded the particulars against Mr Crosby and Mr Textor collectively.

The pollster's lawyer, Ric Lucas, told the court  the pleadings were "confusing" and requested that individual pleadings be made against each plaintiff.

Mr Lucas told the court that argument would take only a "couple of hours".

Justice Steven Rares set the leave application for a hearing in Sydney in December.

"If you can't resolve it before that," Justice Rares said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the defamation matter had been set for hearing on December 11. Instead, Dr Kelly's application for leave to amend his case will be heard on this date.