Shanks for Nothin’?

Barilaro’s Defamation Saga

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has officially settled a defamation case against YouTube comedian Jordan Shanks that started in May.

Jordan Shanks has apologised to John Barilaro and will pay $100,000 in costs as part of a settlement deal in the defamation case. No damages will be paid to Mr Barilaro and the two YouTube videos (titled ‘bruz’ and ‘Secret Dictatorship’ together amassing close to 1 million views.) at the heart of the Federal Court case will not be taken down. Instead, they are to be edited – removing the aspects of the content Mr Barilaro claimed was “offensive”.

Mr Barilaro alleged the first video, entitled “bruz” and posted in September last year, inferred he was a corrupt conman and had committed perjury. The video showcases Shanks in a bubble bath – which happens in be in an Albury property owned by Mr Barilaro that he rents out on Airbnb – smoking a cigar where he satirically details the accusations and backs it up with “evidence”. The YouTube entertainer boldly refers to Mr Barilaro as a “big, fat, wog c***”, “greasy Ned Kelly” and “a conman to the core, powered by spaghetti”.

As such, Mr John Barilaro, whose actual name is ‘Giovanni Domenic Barilaro’, alleged the video contained “vile and racist” language that was derogatory and made inappropriate reference to his Italian heritage.

The second video published on the ‘friendlyjordies’ YouTube channel, called ‘Secret Dictatorship’, is alleged to have defamed Barilaro by proposing he acted corruptly by engaging in blackmail. Shanks cited comments made in a Parliamentary committee to support his claim that the allegations were substantially true, but was unable to use the comments as doing so would breach Parliamentary privilege.

Mark Davis, Shanks’ lawyer, stated “Under the circumstances, we are more than satisfied that the action has been withdrawn.”

The withdrawal came as Shanks’ lawyers argued in Court that “freedom of expression is important”, but accepted that the content of the videos were offensive to the former MP. According to Shanks’ Barrister, Dr Matt Collins QC, “Mr Shanks understands Mr Barilaro has been hurt, and apologises to him for that hurt”. Davis stated furher on social media that the case went “to the heart of the citizen’s right to criticise, scrutinise and satirise our political leaders”.

The settlement also includes an undertaking from Shanks not o publish claims about Barilaro’s personal life. Sale of merchandise relating to Barilaro is also to stop upon the MP’s departure from public political life. Shanks had sold keyrings of a scrotum with Barilaro’s face on it wearing a Nintendo Mario hat and t-shirts with a Nintendo Mario-esc character stepping on a koala labelled “Super Barilaro Bruz”, again, referring to his Italian heritage.

Barilaro has stated “I am pleased that my defamation claims against Jordan Shanks have settled. I am grateful for and accept Mr Shanks’ apology to me, and trust that we can now each move on with our lives,” he said.

While the case with Shanks has been settled, Barilaro’s case against Google continues. Mr Barilaro claims the tech company failed to remove the two YouTube videos posted by Shanks despite in violating the community codes against racism and inappropriate content.

The ‘friendlyjordies’ channel, created by Shanks in 2013, has close to 600,000 subscribers, 153 million views and continues to be an influence figure in political satire in Australia. Shanks successfully raised more than $1 million to defend the lawsuit, while Barilaro funded his case privately – per confirmation of his office.

As you can see, defamation cases can be quite tricky and be very lengthy process. If you or someone you know needs representation in a defamation case please contact our office today.


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