“Senator Sam Soapbox” – Law of Communication – Law Assignment

Internal Code: MAS5531

Law Of Communication Assignment :

Scenario:

Senator Sam Soapbox was elected in the 2016 Federal election as a Senator for the ACT. He is the youngest person to ever be elected to the Australian Senate, making his mother very proud. Sam attributes his success to his heavy use of social media during his campaign. He thinks it makes him more accessible to his constituents – something he thinks many ‘career politicians’ are lacking. One of Sam’s key policy platforms during his campaign was the re-introduction of horse and carriage transport between Canberra and Sydney. Following the commencement of the new light rail project, and an abundance of carrots being produced by local farmers, he thinks that the next step is
for Canberra to join up with Australia’s biggest city and horse transport is the next big thing. In late 2017, he intends to ramp up his pressure on the Government to put into action the recommendations of a feasibility study that was commissioned in 2015. During a rather heated Senate Question Time debate, the following exchange took place between Sam and the Hon Senator Sally Sleeper, Minister for Transport:

SAM: My question is for the Minister for Transport. Minister, the Government has spent millions of dollars commissioning a report into the feasibility of a network of horse and carriages to transport passengers and freight between Canberra and Sydney. That report had positive results, so why hasn’t the Government commenced the open tender process to engage a project manager or was this just another carrot the Government dangled in front of the snouts of the desperate people of the ACT?

SALLY: I thank the Senator for the ACT for his question. The Senator will be pleased to hear that we have engaged a project manager for the horse and carriage network – the Mister Ed Consulting Group. Due to the specialist nature of the services, and the requirement for a special breed of Clydesdale horses, a closed select tender process was carried out. The Government accepted the Group’s tender and the contract was executed during a signing ceremony on the Gold Coast last month. Work on upgrading the Hume Highway to include a special horse and carriage express lane is due to start in October.

Sam was fuming at this news as he wanted to squeeze a little more publicity out of the project before it went ahead, just to show his constituents what a good job he was doing at putting pressure on the Government. While questioning continued, he did a quick Google and discovered that Troy Thoroughbred, the Chief Executive Officer of Mister Ed Consulting, had previously been investigated by the Australian Federal Police for attempting to bribe a Government official. The investigation was dropped after no evidence of bribery was uncovered. While still sitting in the Senate chamber, Sam decided to push the issue a little further. He posted the
following on his twitter account (which has 5000 followers):

The head of Mr Ed Consulting Group, the new Government contractor, is corrupt! He has no business acumen and the only way he could have got the new horse and carriage contract is through bribery!

That evening, Sam goes along to a dinner hosted by Sally at the Hyatt Hotel. It was an ‘invite only’ the affair, attended by only 20 people with an interest in the horse and carriage project. Sam discretely places his Smart Phone under his napkin on the table to record Sally, in case there are any great soundbites he can use as part of his pressure campaign During her keynote address, Sally spoke about a current trial in the ACT involving Dr Emily Bird. Emily is an emu breeder and is on trial for animal cruelty offences after administering a special type
of steroid to her emus in an attempt to make them strong enough to pull carriages. Sally made the following comment about Emily and the trial:

I sat in on today’s proceeding and was very disheartened to hear that the judge issued a suppression order in relation to the name of the drug Emily used on her emus. That drug was XPT123, which has been known to have special cancer-healing properties. However, one of
the ingredients of XPT123 is the nectar of the plant Fuchsia Carla. That plant was thought to be extinct but it must not be if Emily used it – people, there’s a cure for cancer out there so why aren’t we using it!!

Sam got a bit bored with the speech after that. Since he was recording it anyway, he decided to have a look at what the latest was on Facebook. He saw a post from his friend James Justice who, to Sam’s surprise, posted his status as ‘James is a jubilant juror on Emily’s trial!’ Sam sent James the following message, to which James immediately replied:

SAM: Hey James, just saw you’re on the Bird trial. I’m just writing some stuff to help my campaign. Any idea why the judge issued a suppression order re the drug?

JAMES: Hey Sammy, great to hear from you! Yep, sitting on the trial which fortunately has finally concluded. Me and the other jurors are in the deliberation room now talking about that suppression order. We weren't given any detail why the order was issued (all that would have been discussed when we were not in the room) but one of the other jurors here just said the judge issued it because had it been known that Emily had access to a drug that could cure cancer, and didn’t tell anyone, it would have prejudiced her right to a fair trial.

Sam thought revealing all this information was a great way to increase his profile as a ‘man of people’. Instead of just putting it on Twitter or Facebook like he normally would, he wrote the following email to the general enquiries inbox of the newspaper The Canberra Tribune. The entire email was published by the newspaper as a ‘letter to the editor’ the next day:

Dear Editor
I’ve just listened to an appalling speech by Sally Sleeper where she revealed ‘one of the ingredients of XPT123 is the nectar of the plant Fucicia Curela’. If it cures cancer, why on earth aren’t we harvesting it? That Emily Bird obviously has access to it, and she is wasting
it on emus! Juror James Justice confirmed that the reason the judge issued the suppression order is to prevent an uprising – what a crock!

Questions: 

(1) Has Sam defamed Troy in his tweet? In your answer, discuss whether the defence of absolute privilege is available to Sam

(2) Has Sam committed any offence(s) under the Listening Devices Act 1992 (ACT)? Do any defences apply?

(3) Have any offences been committed under the Jurors Act 1967 (ACT)? In your answer, discuss the possible application of two offences

(4) With reference to the fact scenario and other relevant cases, critically analyse the use of suppression orders in court proceedings and how such orders affect the principles of open justice. In your answer, discuss whether a public interest defence should be available as a defence to sub- judice contempt for individuals who breach suppression orders.

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