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LNP powerbrokers offer to settle branch-stack defamation claim

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Liberal National Party lawyers have sought to settle a claim from a former candidate with a retraction, apology and $11,000 payment. Their offer has yet to be accepted.

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In April, former LNP member and Senate candidate David Goodwin launched defamation against then party president David Hutchinson and other officials after his membership was suspended in 2019.

Hutchinson, one of the Christian conservatives in the LNP, was accused of seeking to recruit right-wing extremists into the party. He had previously been critical of then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The branch-stacking claims prompted Hutchinson to issue a statement that “following media reports today that included allegations that a member of the LNP has engaged­ in this type of behaviour the party has this afternoon moved to suspend that person’s membership’’. Goodwin was identified in media reports.

Goodwin, a former president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, denied any wrong-doing and was particularly aggrieved at not being afforded the right of reply before being suspended.

The businessman is seeking more than $350,000 in damages and legal costs, in a case that has been running in the background of state LNP leader Deb Frecklington’s ongoing battle with Hutchinson and others for control of the party. Hutchinson, who had worked for Clive Palmer and was critical of Frecklington’s leadership, resigned as president in August.

In an amended defence, filed in the District Court in mid-September, lawyers for Hutchinson and the LNP officials responded to the claims and reiterated their early attempt to settle the case.

“On 1 May 2020 the defendants, by their solicitors, issued an offer to make amends in which the first defendant, as is the case in this defence, accepted responsibility for the publication of the matter complained of, and made an offer to make amends … in which he retracted the allegation that the plaintiff had been suspended from the LNP for, or because he could reasonably have been suspected of, involvement in branch stacking or abuse of process; apologised to the plaintiff for the making of that allegation; offered to seek to have that apology published in The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail; and offered in settlement of the dispute to pay the plaintiff’s legal costs up to the sum (which had been sought by the plaintiff in the concerns notice) of $11,000 (inc. GST),” solicitors for Hutchinson and the officials wrote.

The case is ongoing.

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