Craig Thomson's ongoing stoush with the media took another strange turn today, as the independent MP declared "enough is enough" and asked the press pack to back off from its pursuit of him. We're not surprised, given the intense blowtorch that's been applied to the Member for Dobell for months.
Thomson has been at the centre of an ongoing series of damaging reports since the HSU fees sex scandal was first uncovered more than two years ago. The latest revelation is set to come from A Current Affair, who have reportedly paid $60,000 to a sex worker to reveal he was a customer.
"Frankly this is journalism at its worst ... let's not descend any further into the gutter," Thomson told reporters this morning, adding that he felt the aim of the scrutiny was to "push someone to the brink".
It's not the first time Thomson has been the subject of a rabid press pack. Earlier this week, a passionate Thomson was Photoshopped with a Pinocchio nose on the front page of the Herald Sun, next to the headline 'We Don't Believe You'. Thomson told parliament on Monday that the media was helping fan a "lynch mob" which had led to threats.
So what actions are available to Thomson should the media have taken a step too far, particularly after he has already backed away from one defamation claim against Fairfax? And has the man's reputation been so tarnished that he has become almost 'undefameable'?
"What you're seeing with the Herald Sun is they're making a calculation about what you can say about someone and not get sued," a Melbourne defamation lawyer told The Power Index.
"Which is not necessarily that they're not defameable but rather they are in such a practically untenable position that they in fact will not sue you."
Thomson has already tried to protect his name in the past. He first initiated proceedings against Fairfax in 2009 over a series of reports which first raised the HSU allegations about ATM withdrawals and brothels. The action was settled.
Defamation lawyers told The Power Index this morning that defamation proceedings could be won by anyone, regardless of how far their reputation had been tarnished.
"[Kings Cross nightclub owner] Abe Saffron before he died sued a number of people, he sued the Gold Coast Bulletin for their crossword," one lawyer said, referring to a Bully cryptic clue, "Sydney underworld figure, nicknamed Mr Sin (3,7).''
"And furthermore we're seeing examples everyday of those we don't think would be defameable and those would be world dictators, terrorists etc. Papers are full of defamation of foreign people."