'Sorry': ratepayer to pay as union vs Liberal defamation case settles
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'Sorry': ratepayer to pay as union vs Liberal defamation case settles

A long-running defamation case between ex-Canberra union boss Dean Hall and MLA Jeremy Hanson has settled with the former Canberra Liberals leader apologising.

Mr Hanson has issued the former CFMEU ACT branch secretary a written apology and agreed to pay his legal costs.  Mr Hall will not receive a payout. A notice of discontinuance is expected to be filed in the ACT Supreme Court this week.

Former CFMEU boss Dean Hall, left, has settled his defamation action against former Canberra Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson.

Former CFMEU boss Dean Hall, left, has settled his defamation action against former Canberra Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson.

Photo: Fairfax

The ACT ratepayer will foot the legal bill – expected to exceed $500,000 – as the government agreed to pick up the tab as Mr Hanson had made the comments in his role as an ACT parliamentarian.

The union welcomed the apology but said it had been disappointed the win had to come at the cost of ratepayers.

Mr Hall said it had been a shame the money used to fund the case could have been spent on important services, such as schools or hospitals.

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In March 2016, in the fallout of the Trade Union Royal Commission and in the lead up to the territory election, Mr Hanson appeared on the 2CC Breakfast Show to discuss an agreement between UnionsACT and the ACT government giving unions a role in procurement decisions.

Mr Hanson labelled it a "secret deal" and argued it gave unions an effective veto power over government purchases.

"Do we want people like Dean Hall, who runs the CFMEU, or others who potentially are facing charges or have been convicted of charges, ah, given access to, ah, company documents?” Mr Hanson said on air.

Mr Hall alleged this comment had been defamatory and filed action against 2CC and Mr Hanson in the ACT Supreme Court in June 2016.

The radio station settled soon after, issuing an on-air apology and agreeing to a confidential payout.

Mr Hanson instead attempted to fight the lawsuit. His legal team argued the comments had not been defamatory and did not carry negative imputations as alleged.

His case, however, suffered a number of setbacks when the courts struck out his defence a number of times, ruling the arguments had been "defective" and unlikely to succeed.

The matter had been set down for hearing in October, but it is understood the parties instead struck a bargain earlier this month whereby the Member for Murrumbidgee issued Mr Hall an apology and agreed to cover his legal costs, estimated to be about $280,000.

The cost of Mr Hanson’s defence costs are unknown, but it is understood to be similar to those incurred by Mr Hall.

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In a letter to Mr Hall, dated August 3, Mr Hanson wrote: “On 16 March 2016, I appeared on the 2CC Breakfast Show in my capacity as leader of the opposition, and made comments about you in your capacity as secretary of the CFMEU.

“I know that you do not have criminal convictions nor that you are facing any criminal charges.

“To the extend my words suggested that you had any criminal convictions or are facing any criminal charges, I retract any such words and I apologise for any hurt and distress this has caused you.”

Mr Hanson declined to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media as the matter was still before the courts.

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Jason O'Mara - who replaced Mr Hall earlier this year - said: “We are glad to see Mr Hanson finally apologise for his ridiculous comments about the former secretary, Dean Hall.

“What's disappointing is that it a came at such a significant cost to the taxpayer.

“This was never about money for Dean or the union, all we ever wanted was an apology."

Mr Hall welcomed the completion of the case.

“My good name has been restored and I’ve been totally vindicated in taking action against Mr Hanson," Mr Hall said.

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“It could’ve been over years ago, I immediately accepted an apology from 2CC and moved on."