Former Network Ten political editor Peter van Onselen will be enjoying Italy’s picturesque Amalfi Coast when his lawyers are fighting claims from the television channel that he breached his departure agreement by writing a scathing opinion column.
Orders released by the NSW Supreme Court on Monday reveal van Onselen has agreed not to disparage or ridicule Network Ten or its staff until the court case is over. Ten wants to go further, asking the court to declare that van Onselen broke his agreement with the company and permanently bar him from doing or saying anything that might adversely affect its reputation.
Both Ten and van Onselen, who is fighting the legal case first revealed by this masthead, declined to comment.
At a brief hearing on Monday morning in front of a packed court, Sue Chrysanthou, SC, the barrister who also recently represented Ten personality Lisa Wilkinson, appeared for van Onselen. Arthur Moses, SC, fresh from representing disgraced soldier Ben Roberts-Smith in his unsuccessful defamation case against this masthead, represented Ten.
As the parties discussed when a hearing on the dispute should be held, Chrysanthou said her client would soon be travelling overseas but did not know where. That prompted van Onselen, who was in court, to say he was heading to the Amalfi Coast. NSW Supreme Court judge Justice David Hammerschlag quipped he presumed van Onselen could access an audiovisual link if he needed to dial in for the hearing on June 29, even in such a challenging locale, to laughter in the courtroom.
Van Onselen is unlikely to be cross-examined at the hearing later this month, Moses told the court.
Van Onselen, who is a professor at the University of Western Australia and holds a journalism chair, left Network Ten in March after four years with the broadcaster to go back to full-time academia. In a column for The Australian on May 29, he savaged the performance of the network, its management and US parent company Paramount. Paramount has struggled with the costs of its streaming division against better-funded rivals, while Ten has languished as the third-place Australian television network.
Ten has consistently rejected speculation that Paramount might shut it down. “We are excited, and we’re investing,” Paramount executive Pam Kaufmann told this masthead earlier this year. Company documents record a $324 million profit for the 2021 financial year, although the network has made major redundancies since then.
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