Ashurst lambasted in the Aussie press for threatening a farmer
16 November 2012
has been slammed by the Australian press this week for sending a letter, on behalf of Grid Australia, threatening farmer Bruce Robertson with defamation and demanding he cough up for the firm's legal costs.
Earlier this year Robertson, a corporate analyst turned cattle farmer, discovered an electricity company was planning to run transmission lines through his land. After doing some research he began to mistrust the electricity companies' claims that price hikes could be blamed on increased consumption. He went public with the assertion that over-investment in electricity networks, rather than demand, was driving up prices. He also accused the companies of misleading the Senate, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report
||Ashurst getting a kicking yesterday, an artist's impression |
This went down like a sh*t sandwich with Grid Australia, the body which represents the six companies that own Australia's $10bn electricity networks. It fired off a letter to Robertson, through Ashurst, accusing him of defamation and demanding that he apologise and pay Ashurst's legal costs. Cue damaging headlines about a big law firm powerhouse trying to muzzle a cattle farmer. And the bad press was exacerbated by the existence of a NSW law prohibiting companies with over 10 employees
suing an individual for defamation. It is far from clear how
many employees Grid Australia has, or even if it's a legal entity.
Whatever the legal technicalities, the bad press seems to have had an effect. Yesterday Grid Australia conducted an embarrassing climb-down, seeming to slightly dump Ashurst in it along the way. In a letter
to the Herald, its Chairman made a grovelling apology to Robertson and confirmed "I have instructed Ashurst that Grid Australia has no intention of taking legal action against you in regard to the matters referred to in that letter
A spokeswoman for Ashurst said "We never comment on matters of client confidentiality