READ: James Ashby says One Nation Will Not Remove Satirical Video Of Robert Irwin Despite Legal Threat

The following article appeared on ABC online news. 

Pauline Hanson is ignoring a legal threat to remove a One Nation cartoon featuring Robert Irwin which the celebrity figure claims is defamatory.

One Nation published a two-minute video on Friday called 'The State of Queensland' which used Robert Irwin and popular children's character Bluey to mock the state government over perceived failings ahead of the election in October.

Mr Irwin has threatened to sue for defamation over the clip, which One Nation described as "tongue-in-cheek" and features Irwin's misadventures with Bluey through Queensland.

In the video, their car is stolen by "juvenile delinquents" before Bluey falls into a giant pothole on the Bruce Highway.

"Oh no!" Mr Irwin's character exclaims.

"Lucky the state of Queensland's got a world-class medical system."

Another character then laments there's a six-month wait for treatment.

'Unauthorised and deceptive'

Mr Irwin and Bluey have featured prominently in a recent Queensland government tourism campaign to lure visitors to the state.

The legal letter from Sunshine Coast lawyer Zoe Naylor accused the video's producers of "unauthorised and deceptive use of our client's image".

"We demand that you remove this video," the letter states.

Mr Irwin claimed, through his lawyer, that the "egregious" video may mislead viewers into believing he is aligned with One Nation.

"Robert Irwin is heavily associated with the Irwin Family and the Australia Zoo, which are all recognisable brands."

Mr Irwin's lawyer threatened to apply for an injunction and commence defamation proceedings if the cartoon was not removed by 5pm on Monday.

'Robert needs to lighten up'

Ms Hanson's chief of staff James Ashby, who will also contest the seat of Keppel in the upcoming state election, said the legal threat came as a surprise.

"It's hard to know exactly what Robert is offended by, because the reality is Robert was the hero in the episode, not the villain," Mr Ashby said.

"I think Robert just needs to lighten up. I really think he's [kicked] an own goal here.

"His dad always had a good sense of humour and most Queenslanders, most Aussies, always saw that larrikin side of Steve."

'Weak' claim will 'backfire': expert

Defamation lawyer Justin Quill described Mr Irwin's claim as "pretty weak".

"I think it's pretty obvious to anyone watching this video that it's a parody, that it's a joke, that it's not real, that he hasn't authorised it, and that this is really a One Nation political statement," Mr Quill said.

"It's just a case of someone who doesn't want it there and wants to use legal means to try and have it removed, but I don't think I don't think he'll be successful.

Mr Quill said the legal threat is likely to amplify the audience of the clip.

"I suspect 90-something per cent of the people who end up seeing this [cartoon] will only see it because of this legal claim," he said.

Media lawyer Jake Blundell agreed.

"Frankly, I wouldn't know that the video existed if it wasn't for Robert Irwin's letter being reported on," he said.

Mr Blundell cast doubt on whether Mr Irwin would be able to prove "serious harm" to the level required by defamation law.

"There's a consumer law issue around making a representation to the public that there is a sponsorship approval or affiliation between One Nation and Mr Irwin … but that's a separate question," he said.

An invitation to dinner

Mr Ashby invited Mr Irwin to dinner with Ms Hanson to discuss the issue.

"More than happy to do steak and veg around the fire … This Friday, he's welcome. Just say the word Robert."

Mr Ashby said Robert Irwin had inadvertently given more oxygen to the cartoon by threatening legal action.

"I don't think Robert's really thought this through. [It's] obviously poorly advised by somebody, either his lawyers or a media person," he said.

"People that have never even seen the cartoon series before are now well-aware of it.

"So if anything, he's done us a favour and I say 'thank you' to Robert for that."

Mr Ashby said the party had sought counsel from leading defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou.

"One Nation have got no intention of taking the video down," he said.

By Sunday afternoon, the video had 120,000 views on YouTube and 86,000 views on Facebook.

The ABC has contacted Robert Irwin and his lawyer for comment.

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  • One Nation
    published this page in News 2024-06-18 12:36:10 +1000