A popular YouTube commentator being sued by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has been ordered to rewrite his defence to the politician’s defamation claims.
The member for Monaro claims Jordan Shanks, who goes by the name Friendlyjordies on YouTube, falsely labelled him as a “conman” who engaged in various forms of corruption in two videos, titled bruz and Secret Dictatorship.
The Nationals MP is also suing Google, the publisher of YouTube.
On Friday Mr Shanks suffered a setback in a pre-trial skirmish over his defence filed in the Federal Court case.
Mr Barilaro alleges the bruz video, which was viewed more than 750,000 times as of July 2021, defamed him by falsely suggesting he had committed perjury nine times and that he should be jailed for doing so.
Mr Shanks claimed in his defence it was true that Mr Barilaro had committed perjury and in his honest opinion the member for Monaro should be jailed.
But, the YouTuber said, those defences relied on comments Mr Barilaro had made before a Legislative Council committee in 2018 and were therefore protected by parliamentary privilege.
Mr Shanks said Mr Barilaro should waive his parliamentary privilege over the comments, and, if that did not happen, the court should strike out that part of his claim as an abuse of process.
Justice Stephen Rares ruled against Mr Shanks on Friday and said his approach would be an “affront to justice” that effectively left publishers free to defame people speaking under parliamentary privilege.
Justice Rares said parliamentary privilege was a “fundamental principle” of democracy that ensured MPs could speak freely in parliament.
He acknowledged Mr Shanks did not appear to have any other defences available to him but said the situation was not Mr Barilaro’s fault.
“Rather, it arose because of the way in which Mr Shanks chose to publish the bruz video,” he said.
“In my opinion, it is difficult to see how it is unfair that parliamentary privilege will prevent Mr Shanks from relying on those defences.
“Instead, I have found that it would be unfair to deprive Mr Barilaro of the right to vindicate his reputation that Mr Shanks attacked.”
The judge found there were other errors in the way Mr Shanks had compiled his defence and gave him time to rewrite it and submit it again.
Mr Shanks has also applied to have the trial heard by a jury.
Google’s barrister Lyndelle Barnett indicated the tech giant would likely support the application.
The matter will return to court later this month.Internet Explorer Channel Network