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Greg Hallam No Al Capone
Public life in Queensland is a long way from the streets of Chicago in the 1920s, unless you are former LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam. Greg is determined to show that he is no Aussie Al Capone and is using the courts to do it!
It is hard to know what you would have to be smoking to believe Greg Hallam was an underworld crime boss. However, Hallam is keen to prove in court that he has not been living a secret life as an Australian Tony Soprano.
Greg Hallam LGAQ
There are no end of political views on Facebook. However, when Lyn O’Connor (under her maiden name Elizabeth Kennedy) warned that the LGAQ was becoming a ‘cult’ and supporting a ‘new world order’, she did not know what she was in for. Hallam issued a legal claim, alleging that her comments were understood to mean that he (Hallam):
- Was a powerful crime boss
- Further and alternatively, was corrupt; and…. Further and alternatively, operated the LGAQ as a cartel, a profitable criminal empire.
There is no denying the existence of corruption in local government, but such an imputation is surely taking the law a bridge too far.
The LGAQ or Local Government Association of Queensland is the peak body for local government in Queensland.
The longest serving LGAQ CEO is Greg Hallam. Mr. Hallam held the position for 29 years, retiring at the end of 2021.
It is estimated the LGAQ has spent in excess of $1M on the defamation claim by retiring CEO Greg Hallam.
Satire not Welcomed by Greg Hallam
High profile people are legitimate targets. However, O’Connor took a satirical route in her jabs against Hallam. In cheeky fashion, O’Connor drew on the Star Wars franchise, assigning Greg Hallam the personality Jabba the Hutt. Further, in one of her Facebook posts she has Jabba saying, “The CCC is not doing enough to stop this and we don’t want the truth getting out and ruining everything.”
The identity of Jabba is not immediately clear. However, LGAQ CEO Hallam’s highly paid lawyers were wise to the ruse. Their claim states O’Connor’s satirical jab was directed at their client.
This is evidenced from her sign off of the above comment with “Yours Sincerely Jabba de Hallom. Leader of the Galactic Council of totalitarian rule”. They deduced the sign off was a parody of the generously proportioned Star Wars character. A vulgar response to their deductive skills would have been …no shit Sherlock!
Imputations – You say A and I say B
Throughout the claim, solicitors for Greg Hallam (the same solicitors used by the LGAQ) make use of the creative legal device known as “imputations”. This happens when you say one thing and the other party puts forward an ‘imputation’ as to what you really meant. For example, you say “would you like a drink” and I could say “you have made the imputation that `I am an alcoholic’.
This legal strategy makes it very hard to avoid a defamation claim, because something you say can be imputed to mean something completely different. For example, when I ask my wife if she wants potatoes for dinner, she may make the imputation I am suggesting we cut off Peter Dutton’s head and bake it as a side dish. Of course this is far fetched, but it is hard to know the limits of imputation and that is the problem.
Jabba the Hutt Imputation
Indeed, the use of imputation enables the plaintiff to draw their preferred scenario. In the action against O’Connor, Hallam could have cast the imputation she was saying he was a ‘grotesquely overweight and offensive character’. Who are we to say this was not in O’Connor’s mind? Short of reading her mind, is it ever possible to know?
Greg Hallam’s decision to impute O’Connor’s comments as meaning he is an ‘evil crime boss’ shows how flexible the notion of imputation is. While many would recall Jabba the Hutt as an overweight alien from Star Wars, few would have a detailed knowledge of his rap sheet.
Greg Hallam lawsuit not funny for defendants
Despite the ridiculous nature of the LGAQ funded defamation claim, there are real life consequences. Most obviously are the wider implications of this attack on freedom of speech.
However, at the personal level, the consequences are real and painful for defendants like O’Connor. She has experienced very negative impacts on her mental and physical health and her finances have been pushed to bankruptcy.
It is easy to laugh at legal actions like this (especially when one is not a party to them). However, they clearly highlight the urgent need for defamation law reform. Consequently, without reform, defamation actions will remain the domain of the privileged and powerful. Hence, it is likely to remain a sport for the rich to distress and ruin vulnerable people with whom they disagree.
– Rob Pyne (former Councillor, MP and Co-defendant).
* The Cairns District Court has heard the Hallam case. The court will hand down a decision in 2024.
- Council Mayors Silencing Dissent
- Cairns Regional Council
- Defamation Litigation
- Freedom of Speech Under Attack
- Joann Pyne
- Local Government Corruption
- Rob Pyne Archives
- Tom Pyne