Comedian asks for NSW Deputy Premier’s parliamentary privilege to be waived in defamation case

Henri Scott

July 6, 2023

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Original Source: News.com.au, Blake Antrobus

A lawyer for a popular YouTube comedian has claimed in court his comments about NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro in a controversial video are ‘substantially true’.

A lawyer for a popular YouTube comedian being sued by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro for defamation has asked for the Nationals leader’s parliamentary privilege to be lifted.

Jordan Shanks-Markovina, better known by his YouTube moniker Friendlyjordies, has filed a truth defence in the defamation case brought against him by Mr Barilaro.

The Deputy Premier claims a series of videos published by the comedian to his YouTube channel brought Mr Barilaro into “public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt”.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro claims he was defamed in a series of videos published by comedian Jordan ‘Friendlyjordies’ Shanks-Markovina.

But Mr Shanks-Markovina claims the contextual imputations are substantially true and has mounted a defence of honest opinion.

Mr Barilaro has also lodged defamation proceedings against tech giant Google, the publisher of YouTube.

On Friday, the first case management hearing between the parties began at the Federal Court in Sydney.

Matthew Collins QC, appearing for Mr Shanks-Markovina, said he would seek a jury trial for the matter.

The court was told the jury issue could not be “sensibly determined” until Google had been served with their material.

Dr Collins said there were still disputes between the parties that would require more time to “flesh out matters”, including statements made by Mr Barilaro to the NSW Legislative Council under parliamentary privilege.

“We seek to do this expeditiously … if these matters are dealt with efficiently one day of court time will suffice,” he said.

Sue Chrysanthou, lawyer for NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, said Mr Shanks-Markovina had accused her client of nine counts of perjury but had not given any details of the actions.

But Sue Chrysanthou, appearing for Mr Barilaro, said there was “barely a paragraph” in the defence that would survive a “wholesale attack”.

She said Mr Shanks-Markovina had accused her client of nine counts of perjury but had not given any details of the actions.

“There is a complete failure to provide particulars,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

“We set out our objections … to allegations of criminal conduct … it does not comply with the rules or particulars of justification.”

Dr Collins said the particulars could be provided by the end of the day.

“There’s absolutely nothing in the objections raised by our learned friend,” Dr Collins said.

Justice Steven Rares ordered the parties back to court on July 23 for further submissions.

“There is a prima-facie case that those claims are defamatory and that Google is a publisher of the defamatory manner,” he said.

Mr Shanks-Markovina boasts more than half a million subscribers on the Friendlyjordies channel, which has frequently featured content critical of Mr Barilaro.

In one video, the Deputy Premier is referred to as a “big, fat, wog c–k”, “a conman to the core, powered by spaghetti” and a “greasy little scrotum”.

Mr Barilaro alleges another video falsely portrayed him as acting corruptly by blackmailing councillors and pocketing money from the Narrandera Shire Council in southwestern NSW.

Mr Shanks-Markovina is arguing a defence of substantial truth and honest opinion to the claims raised by Mr Barilaro in the Federal Court.

He also claims Mr Shanks-Markovina falsely painted him as a “corrupt conman” who committed perjury multiple times and corruptly gave $3.3m to a beef company.

He is seeking aggravated damages over the claims.

Mr Shanks-Markovina’s legal team filed a defence on Wednesday, arguing the imputations are “substantially true”.

They said the defence could not be fully explored without Mr Barilaro waiving parliamentary privilege.

The defence justifies an imputation raised in one of the videos about “pork-barrelling” by referencing comments Mr Barilaro made about grants under the NSW government’s Regional Cultural Fund.

Court documents state only $4000 of the $47m fund was allocated to Labor-held seats.

It included an allocation of $3.54m to Mr Barilaro’s own seat of Monaro.

Mr Barilaro has defended the expenditure and is quoted as saying: “Well my name is John Barilaro, call me Pork-Barilaro, and I have no apology because at the end of the day I will stand up and fight for our communities.”

The defence also relies on other grants awarded to a football club where Mr Barilaro was a former president and a road upgrade near a property he owned.

Mr Shanks-Markovina has argued one of the videos carried the imputation that Mr Barilaro blamed the National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW for devastating 2019-2020 bushfires and opposed the culling of wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park.

He said one of the videos carried another imputation that Mr Barilaro breached his parliamentary obligations by not declaring income he earned from a property advertised through online rental platforms.

Mr Shanks-Markovina claims the imputation that Mr Barilaro is a hypocrite is carried due to his opposition to a vote on establishing a parliamentary royal commission into water corruption.

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Written By Henri Scott

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