A Federal Court judge is set to deliver his long-awaited verdict in the defamation trial between Clive Palmer and West Australian Premier Mark McGowan.

Justice Michael Lee will hand down his judgment in Melbourne on Tuesday, more than three months after reserving his decision.

Palmer sued the WA premier in 2020, claiming “vicious” public comments – including labelling the mining billionaire an enemy of the state – had damaged his reputation.

Clive Palmer and Mark McGowan
A Federal Court judge is set to deliver his long-awaited verdict in the defamation trial between Clive Palmer and West Australian Premier Mark McGowan. (Getty, Alex Ellinghausen)

The Queensland businessman is seeking aggravated damages which would allow for a payout above the $432,500 cap.

He has accused the Labor premier of being consumed by malice and seeking to “blacken his name at every opportunity”.

McGowan, who is counter-suing Palmer for defamation, has made his own appeal for aggravated damages.

The premier is claiming qualified privilege as a defence. It requires proof there was a legal, social or moral duty for him to say those things.

Palmer is defending various comments he made on the basis of qualified privilege, and substantial and contextual truth.

Palmer is seeking aggravated damages. (Matt Dennien)

At the trial’s conclusion in April, Lee said it was possible neither side would be able to make out any defences.

He flagged each man could receive a nominal damages sum, describing them as political combatants with entrenched reputations.

“There are people who love them, people who hate them,” Lee said.

“The publications themselves are, it seems to me, highly unlikely to change very settled views about these men.”

The defamation bid is one of several legal challenges Palmer has pursued against the WA premier, including a failed bid in the High Court to have the state’s coronavirus-related hard border closure deemed unconstitutional.

It emerged in 2020 that Palmer was seeking up to $30 billion in damages over a 2012 decision by the former Liberal state government not to assess his proposed Balmoral South iron ore project.

WA Premier Mark McGowan says he has no plans to re-introduce COVID-19 restrictions at this stage.
McGowan, who is counter-suing Palmer for defamation, has made his own appeal for aggravated damages. (Flavio Brancaleone)

The McGowan government subsequently rushed through extraordinary legislation to prevent Palmer from suing the state.

In his evidence, Palmer said he was scared because provisions in the legislation protected the government from criminal prosecution.

Referring to the fictional character James Bond and his “licence to kill”, Palmer told the court: “I didn’t know what the limits might be.”

Any suggestion Palmer had a genuine fear for his physical safety was “inherently incredible”, McGowan’s lawyers said.

In private text messages made public during the trial, McGowan described Palmer as “the worst Australian who’s not in jail”.

His attorney-general John Quigley privately labelled Palmer a “big fat liar”.

© AAP 2022

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