Politician vs TV star in high-profile court stoush
Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson is suing Channel 9 and A Current Affair presenter Tracy Grimshaw, alleging they falsely portrayed him as the incompetent chief of an insurance company that "dudded" victims of a savage storm.
GSA Insurance Brokers, chaired by Dr Hewson, was identified as the "insurance company" recommended to Storage King North Parramatta customers Nicole and Adrian Dolahenty in the segment aired in May this year.
The Dolahentys put in a claim to GSA after they lost the contents of their storage unit when hundreds of millimetres of rain fell across Sydney in early February and the unit was inundated.
But, according to court documents, GSA passed the claim to a handling firm who found a nearby watercourse had overflowed and had flooded the unit - the firm felt it was flood damage and not storm damage.
The Dolahentys were told their policy did not cover flood and they wouldn't be paid.
Dr Hewson, in court documents, alleges the segment that went to air included comments from Mr Dolahenty that suggested GSA knew it was storm damage and were "dishonestly" refusing to pay.
"John Hewson - show leadership and get your company GSA Insurance to pay us and everyone who's been dudded by your company," Mr Dolahenty said in the segment., according to a transcript filed with the court.
"When it comes to paying out policy holders they would rather cut and run."
The former federal opposition leader launched a defamation case in the Federal Court against Nine, Ms Grimshaw and journalist Danielle Post late last month saying they all knew Mr Dolahanety's claims were false.
Dr Hewson says in the court documents the show defamed him by implying he failed to direct a valid payout to the Dolahentys, performed incompetently in using the flood exemption and condones a culture of misconduct in his company.
Dr Hewson wants damages and aggravated damages and for the clip to be removed from all of Channel 9's websites and costs.
The court documents say, just before the show went to air, A Current Affair were emailed GSA's version of events but it was only "begrudgingly paid lip service" by Ms Grimshaw at the end of the segment and repeatedly undermined by Mr Dolahenty's statements
Dr Hewson also alleges A Current Affair had expert documents supporting the conclusion the damage was caused by the flood.
"(The defendants) knew these statements were false. They possessed no evidence supporting their truth and possessed expert evidence confirming their falsify," the document alleges.
"They did not even refer to the existence of that expert evidence."
The documents say GSA explained it was an insurance broker - not the insurer - and had no role in making the decision on the flooding.
Dr Hewson further alleges Ms Grimshaw's conduct was "seriously dishonest" when the program "gratuitously" ran 27-year old archival footage of him being interviewed.
That was a reference to the famous birthday cake interview, where Dr Hewson appeared to struggle to explain if a birthday cake would cost more or less under his planned GST as Liberal leader.
Dr Hewson, in the court documents, alleges it was screened in the A Current Affair story to discredit him and the company.
Dr Hewson alleges Ms Grimshaw also made a "gratuitous exhortation" advising people to avoid GSA Insurance.
"Remember that name - GSA Insurance," Ms Grimshaw said, according to a transcript filed to the court.
"If you have a policy with them go and check the fine print. It might be time to shop around."
Dr Hewson alleges the "over-sensationalised" report injured him and brought his business, personal and professional reputation into public disrepute.
Nine, Ms Grimshaw and Ms Post are yet to file their defence in the matter.
Originally published as Politician vs TV star in high-profile court stoush