Though the final agreement remains confidential, the high-profile legal case between independent journalist Marcus Reubenstein and, Australian Parliament House library researcher, Geoff Wade has ended in an apparent win for Reubenstein.
Following a Federal Court ordered mediation process, Reubenstein has announced that he has withdrawn his legal action making the public statement:
“The terms of my settlement with Dr Wade and the Commonwealth remain confidential; however, I am satisfied with this outcome.”
Reubenstein, the publisher of independent website APAC News, should be highly satisfied with the outcome. He took the Australian government and one of its most vocal China critics to court and they chose to settle his claim rather than defend it in front of a Federal Court Judge.
In June 2021, Reubenstein commenced proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against both Geoff Wade and his employer the Commonwealth Department of Parliamentary Services. Reubenstein alleges Wade has made more than 25,000 Twitter publications during office hours whilst working as a library researcher in Australia’s Parliament House.
One clear fact which shows this is a win for Reubenstein is three days after he began court proceedings Wade deleted all 22 Twitter posts he made about Reubenstein.
In his Statement of Claim filed with the Federal Court, Reubenstein argued that on six separate occasions Wade’s Twitter publications carried the meaning that Reubenstein was engaged in criminal foreign interference.
As part of the Settlement, Wade publicly admitted these allegations are totally false, stating:
“To the extent my Tweets may have been interpreted to imply that Mr. Reubenstein has acted improperly against Australia’s national interests, it should be clarified that I did not mean to make any suggestions.”
The outcome is a major victory!
This case began in April 2021, when Wade threatened to sue Marcus Reubenstein, and four other people who shared stories he wrote about Wade’s social media activity during work hours in Parliament House. Reubenstein revealed that Wade had posted the image of 7- and 8-year-old Chinese-Australian children on his Twitter feed, supplying his followers with the class locations and times of these children.
These five legal threats were sent as “confidential” demands notices, however, the notices were immediately published by top Australian independent journalist Michael West, who told his combined audience of more than 250K readers that Wade’s claims were false and there is no legal basis to threaten somebody and then demand they don’t reveal the threats.
This is when the Wade campaign of legal threats began to fall apart.
The following day Reubenstein announced not only that Wade’s threatened lawsuit had no foundation but that he was going to sue Wade for defamation before the Federal Court of Australia.
Reubenstein’s position was never once publicly challenged by Wade.
Most importantly, on 5 August 2021 the Federal Court judge Justice Michael Lee ordered Wade to file documents in Defence of his claims. Wade refused that request, instead he and the Commonwealth sought extensions, so they would never have to publicly defend their actions.
Reubenstein lodged more than 100 pages of written evidence with the Federal Court, neither Wade nor the Commonwealth lodged a single document arguing the claim.
A major win for the truth
Court cases are enormously expensive and in Australia are very risky because high paid lawyers can use highly technical arguments to win court cases. Usually the party with the most money wins and Reubenstein was challenging Respondents who had unlimited money to fight this case.
In defamation cases, between 80 and 90 percent of the money goes to lawyers, so even the winner of the case can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.
Marcus Reubenstein argued on principal that attacks on the Chinese-Australian community and their supporters must be stopped and he clearly stated he was prepared to be personally bankrupted to make this argument.
His legal fight gained the attention of major media in Australia and around world, it was reported by The Australian newspaper, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and across every state capital in Australia.
Despite the confidential terms of his settlement agreement, the fact that neither Geoff Wade nor the government chose to appear in front of a judge to argue their case clearly shows Reubenstein was the winner.
He should be applauded by Chinese-Australians for his decision to stand by his support of the community and fight in the face of a major legal threat.