Treasurer Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax Media. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax Media for defamation over a series of articles about a fund-raising forum that offered access to the Treasurer in exchange for donations of thousands of dollars.
Mr Hockey claims that, as a result of the articles, published on May 5, he has been "greatly injured, shunned and avoided and his reputation has been and will be brought into disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt".
He says Fairfax Media's "over sensational, extravagant and unfair presentation" of the articles indicated an "intent to injure" him.
He is claiming damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs, although the amount of damages is not specified.
In documents filed in the Federal Court on Tuesday, Mr Hockey claimed the articles - in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times - conveyed that he "accepted bribes paid to influence the decisions he made as Treasurer".
Alternatively, the articles conveyed the defamatory imputation that he "was prepared to accept bribes paid to influence the decisions he made as Treasurer" and "corruptly solicited payments to influence his decisions as Treasurer".
In a statement of claim, Mr Hockey said if those imputations were not found, the articles portrayed him as "corrupt in that he was prepared to accept payments to influence his decisions as Treasurer".
Alternatively, the articles conveyed he "corruptly sells privileged access to himself to a select group which include business people and business lobbyists in return for donations to the Liberal Party" and he "knowingly permitted a Liberal Party fundraising forum with which he is associated to accept money from the corrupt Obeid family".
Mr Hockey, who is represented by media law firm Johnson, Winter and Slattery, is suing for aggravated damages on the grounds that Fairfax Media printed and distributed a poster, "Exclusive, Treasurer for Sale. Herald Investigation", to be placed outside newsagents.
He said it was "grossly defamatory" and designed to "increase sales of the Sydney Morning Herald at the expense of [his] reputation".
Further, Fairfax Media's decision to keep the articles on its websites despite being "put on notice" by Mr Hockey about a possible defamation claim gives rise to an increased amount of damages, the documents say.
Mr Hockey said Fairfax Media knew the imputations that he claimed were conveyed were false. He also complained that Fairfax Media failed to apologise to him in terms he suggested by way of a letter sent the day of publication.
The matter is scheduled for a directions hearing before Justice Peter Jacobson on June 12.