Former OAIC chief gets green light to sue newspaper

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Former OAIC chief gets green light to sue newspaper

Canberra Times fails to have defamation suit thrown out of court.

Former Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has been given approval to take Fairfax newspaper the Canberra Times to court over what he says are defamatory imputations contained in a December 2015 column.

Professor McMillan, who is currently serving as acting NSW Ombudsman after leaving the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in the middle of last year, has commenced a defamation suit against the Canberra Times and columnist Jack Waterford in the ACT Supreme Court.

He claims the article, which criticised the OAIC, tarnished his competence as Information Commissioner and his previous role as Commonwealth Ombudsman.

McMillan and his lawyers contended that the article incorrectly painted him as not being a true supporter of open government and freedom of information laws.

Publisher Fairfax, the Canberra Times, and Waterford asked associate judge David Mossop to strike out all eight claims of defamation against them.

They were only successful on two counts, with McMillan now free to return to the court within a fortnight of last week’s judgment with a new statement of claim.

iTnews has attempted to contact McMillan and Jack Waterford for comment.

The former Information Commissioner could be liable to pay 75 percent of the paper’s costs at this stage of the proceeding, but a final decision will not be made on full costs until the case is over.

The parties are now set to return to court to battle it out over the remaining six claims of defamation.

McMillan - who was the first and so far only permanent appointment to the top OAIC role - agreed to fill the NSW Ombudsman’s shoes for two years from July 2015, before hinting at his intention of retiring from the public service.

The statutory Information Commissioner role is currently being filled by Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

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