THE GOLDEN GROVEL: Senior Victorian Liberal apologises, coughs up $200K after defamation drama

daviddavisfauxpas The controversial Liberal leader in Victoria’s upper house David Davis has been forced to apologise and cough up an estimated $200,000 in a confidential settlement of defamation litigation brought by highly regarded Labor strategist and former ALP boss Stephen Newnham.

A statement – obtained by VEXNEWS – signed by Davis indicates his grovelling apology and tells only part of the sorry tale.


In a fiasco that will put further pressure on David Davis’s leadership in the LegCo, Davis had falsely accused Newnham of various obviously stupid things in a press release authorised by him, completed by a staffer and published on the Liberal party’s website. Those defamatory claims cannot be repeated here for legal reasons although were republished to some extent in The Age.

Newnham, widely regarded by all but his Labor factional foes as the most fiercely effective ALP official in living memory, surprised political operatives by immediately demanding a full apology from Davis and making it clear that if it didn’t come, a writ would soon follow.

These threats are commonplace in politics (VEXNEWS gets them frequently enough) but much less common is Newnham’s unique brand of political total war.

Liberal insiders say Davis was wrongfooted from the beginning, never expecting a writ in the first place and making a series of misguided legal calculations that were basically calculated to embarrass Newnham out of proceeding with the case. As it gradually dawned on him that Newnham wasn’t backing off, his desperate moves grew in number. His crazy ideas centred around dragging Premier Brumby and others into the case but the Supreme Court judge hearing the case along the way seemed unimpressed with Davis’s attempts to make the case about something other than what he’d said about Newnham.

All of these legal maneuvers horribly backfired, prompting a number of Supreme Court costs orders (here and here [pdf] ) against the Liberal lefty, thought themselves to involve around $40,000 in total. One of those orders required Davis to pay Newnham’s costs. Those in Davis’s circle say at that point genuine concern and panic set in about how comprehensive Newnham’s victory could be, with potentially gravely embarrassing political and financial consequences for the politician.

As the case was set down for trial next month, the pressure on Davis started to mount while his initial bravado about the proceedings started to fade.

Legal insiders believe that Davis repeatedly ignored his lawyers’ advice and even now has not yet paid them in full. Party insiders say that Davis has hit up all sorts of people for money to bail him out, with Liberal party state director Tony Nutt initially refusing to brush the cobwebs from his chequebook to cover the cost of Davis’s big mouth.


Some in Spring Street have speculated that a secretive “Leader’s account” controlled by Ted Baillieu and funded by MP’s contributions would be used to pay down Davis’s $200,000 tab but others close to the Leader’s office deny this.

Newnham, now a campaign strategist for overseas political parties, corporate clients and commentator for the Herald Sun, has been vindicated in his bold strategy to force Davis to be accountable for his ill-considered press releases.

VEXNEWS understands that Newnham sought merely an apology and withdrawal of the falsehoods initially and couldn’t imagine Davis would handle things so badly.

“This is the political equivalent of winning Tattslotto, forcing your foe to cough up $200,000 in an orgy of legal carnage and distraction,” one amused ally of Newnham reflected last night when told of David Davis’s embarrassing backdown.

“Not since the Bob Hawke era, when he’d scan the papers with an eagle eye looking for anything that crossed the line, so he could pass it on to his lawyer Peter Redlich, and in so doing was able to fund what he called a Packer pool and Murdoch tennis court, has defamation law been so shrewdly used to kick a foe. Hawke wanted his media critics to pay. Newnham wanted Davis to be a man and apologise for blatantly false claims that he hadn’t given any thought to. What followed has clearly been nothing short of comedy gold.”

Legal insiders tell VEXNEWS that even with defamation awards capped at $250,000 that had Davis insisted on defending his indefensible position in court that the total costs of his side and Newnham’s would have approached $700,000. The risk of that was too great so he issued a grovelling apology, which he apparently agonised about according to Liberal insiders, regularly consulting on the matter with Ted Baillieu’s stunned chief of staff Michael Kapel who repeatedly urged him to “make this go away.”

Some Liberals close to Davis say that Newnham’s brutal approach took him by surprise. “They were having a banter with Newnham writing him cheeky letters about Camberwell chiropractors and demanding apologies for various statements made in Parliament. I think D squared thought all was fair in love and war. Some – like Michael Kapel – think Newnham planned this sting all along and played David like a grand piano to distract the hell out of him during an election year. Who knows what went on but this saga will certainly go down in legend. I think it will be probably the last press release of this kind ever put out without parliamentary privilege.”

Kroger aligned Liberals who regard Davis as a joke say it’s further proof that the wrong Davis is in charge of the Opposition in the upper house. “Phil Davis had much more authority and impact. He and Coote probably made a mistake by resigning the leadership positions, it was an attempt to destabilise Baillieu that didn’t work. Meanwhile, David Davis could become a senior minister after the next election and will be looking to wreak vengeance on all those in the party who’ve wronged him. I’m seriously thinking of leaving Melbourne if this clown is elected. It’s too late for Phil to make a move on him but if he did David would struggle to cling on with recent scandals over him bullying staff and drivers, this latest snafu and his hitting the grog repeatedly while Parliament sits. He’s very loyal to Ted but he’s a huge liability too.”



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24 responses to “THE GOLDEN GROVEL: Senior Victorian Liberal apologises, coughs up $200K after defamation drama

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention VEXNEWS 2010© | THE GOLDEN GROVEL: Senior Victorian Liberal apologises, coughs up $200K after defamation drama --

  2. Defamation Laundry

    One good way of laundering ‘bribes’ is to have the payee publish a statement and for the Polly to then issue defamation action. The media reports that the two are are log aheads. The defamation is settled for an undisclosed amount and soon after the payee get what they want. The money is clean and tax free. I recall many such situations were this could have occurred in relation to B Hawke.

  3. della rivet

    He should spend more time in the gym with me. Might help him with young liberals.

  4. Adrian Jackson

    The press say it closer to a $100,000 payout.

    This does not change the fact that sections of the ALP in the west are rotten to the core

  5. Andrew Landeryou VEXNEWS

    Our sources say that the $200K number is more like it which of course includes a well-informed estimate of David Davis’s own legal costs too. Costs orders against him, plus the legal settlement with Newnham plus his own costs has equalled about $200K, we hear anyway. The Age has reported that Davis has had to pay “more than” $100K. Sounds like Austin’s number might have referred to just what Davis had to pay to Newnham’s side, not really sure as neither side are talking. A very expensive mistake for Davis, in any event. Enough to make you wonder whether he has the judgment required to run a multi-billion dollar Health department.

  6. Rivers

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  7. Choke. on. the Truth. Mr David Davis.

  8. Adrian Jackson

    Very expensive. Your are not wrong there Andrew

  9. anon

    Davis is a gutter crawling grub, how desperate must the Libs be to have lying vermin like this in a parliamentary position.

  10. I like it hard

    Don’t mess with Newnman. He’s gonna get you back ten times harder.

  11. Parliamentary Priverlidge

    You can hide in cowards castle and snigger with the boys in making jokes but to then cross the line outside the protection of the house is another question.

  12. No More Mercy

    Never trust a chiroprcator!

  13. Adrian Jackson

    I remember in “the good older days” (early 2000) the Liberals spent about $23,000 on Albert Park while Shardey spent $70,000 on her Caulfield electorate.

    How many seats worth of campaign funding is that 2, 3, possibly 4 or 5 electorates now.

    That will take a lot of cocktail parties fund raisers to catch up.

    Dont forget all the parties in Victoria have both a Commonwealth and State election this year too.

  14. Anonymous

    maybe his “mate” widening Wendy could give him a chop out

  15. anon

    Why does his ‘mate’ widening Wenchy need a 40′ plank strapped on his arse?

  16. Exactly how confidential was the agreement, and who leaked?

    I think I would be trying to trace the leaker of that ‘confidential agreement/settlement’ and go after them for some money…hahahaha

  17. Go after the blabbermouth leaker with a big legal stick

    I dont care for Davis at all.
    But, I don’t care for those who don’t respect confidential agreements either!!
    What goes around comes around…

  18. Boofa Leigh

    What’s this about Wenchy? Are you two-timing me you little toe-rag? After all have I have done for you? Boy there is some dishounorable characters in the Liberal Party. Couldn’t trust them as far as you could throw them….

  19. Mother

    Dont mess with my boy Stephen he bites

  20. Wenchy

    Geoffrey your most disappointing under my satin sheets (and in the back of the Mayoral Stateman) and your a very ineffective fundraiser – so far you have only raised $13.60 by selling one of your little blue pills. How am I going to knock off Munty with $13.60 you silly punce?

  21. BobaFett

    I can just imagine David saying that very caption too.


  22. Whyney Shadow

    I had to pay some hush money to a young man who wouldn’t keep his mouth shut. His open jaw was an advantage for a while but he should never tell my secrets.

  23. politicalrealist

    David Davis deserves all he gets. He is a low life branch stacking shitbag, a bit like a Liberal version of Stephen Conroy.

  24. Argus Tuft

    What else can you expect from a D**K Head who blamed Steve Bracks
    for the closure of the Bank Branches some 10 years ago. He is just like the rest of his party
    as useless as T**s on a Bull

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