Conroy's iiNet comments 'grossly improper'

Conroy's iiNet comments 'grossly improper'

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has called for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to apologise for his criticism of iiNet's Federal Court defence and warned it might lead to legal action.

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update Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has called for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to apologise for his criticism of iiNet's Federal Court defence and warned it might lead to legal action.

Steven Conroy

Stephen Conroy at the ATUG Awards
(Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)

Conroy has called iiNet's defence something out of a Yes Minister episode, ridiculing it as "stunning".

Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin and Shadow Attorney General George Brandis said the verbal barrage was "grossly improper" and had the potential to prejudice the matter before the Federal Court.

"A senior cabinet minister of all people should know better. It is totally unacceptable and could prejudice a matter before the court and damage the company's reputation in the eyes of the public," Brandis said in a statement.

The opposition called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to "take Senator Conroy to task for his reckless comments and to do whatever is necessary to minimise their impact". At the least, the opposition believed an apology was due.

Brandis said iiNet would be acting well within its rights if it were to seek legal advice about the potential impact of Conroy's comments on its defence.

In the case, the Federation alleges that iiNet allowed its users to download thousands of cases of pirated movies and television shows.

Graham Phillips, partner at iiNet's chosen law firm Herbert Geer, said he was "particularly surprised" by the minister's comments since iiNet had not yet filed its defence and evidence on key aspects of the case, such as whether iiNet users have infringed the studios' copyright.

"This case involves complex facts and evidence, and complicated legal issues, which have not previously been tested before the courts," Phillips said.

"However, Herbert Geer is confident that iiNet has a strong defence and that the court will not find iiNet liable for any authorisation of copyright infringement. We hope that all parties will allow the legal process to run its course. We'll do our talking in court and allow iiNet's defence to be judged by the judiciary," he concluded.

"Senator Conroy's comments were both reckless and irresponsible; particularly considering iiNet was yet to even file that aspect of its defence and has every right to a fair hearing," Minchin said in a statement.

He echoed comments he made on the day that Conroy was trying to get back at the internet service provider (ISP) for taking itself out of Conroy's ISP filtering trial and highlighting its shortcomings.

iiNet managing director Michael Malone agreed that it seemed Conroy's motivation for issuing the slur was to get revenge on iiNet for raising concerns about the censorship plan.

"Conroy said that he has seen our defence, given under oath. We haven't even submitted our defence yet, so I am really worried that he says he has seen it," he said.

The words could haunt Conroy in times to come, with iiNet calling on its lawyers. "We have sought legal advice on this. It's unheard of for a crown minister to try to influence the outcome of an active case," Malone said.

Topics: Telcos, Government AU, Legal

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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Talkback

16 comments
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  • seriously.

    does anyone know of anything that this guy has actually done right? how the hell has he got to be a minister by being a complete tard? high time rudd cut his losses and gave him the boot.
    anonymous
  • Conroy Is the Yes Minister joke, not iiNET

    The only part of this story that is from "Yes minister" is Conroy himself!

    I agree with the above comment. How the hell this guy still has a job is beyond me. This person is ment to be for the people.... Yet everything he does is agaist the people of australia.
    anonymous
  • The opposition should ask for more!

    Instead of just asking to appologise for this, they should ask him to appologise for his entire time being communications minister... I can't think of one thing he's done for Australia.
    anonymous
  • He has done something...

    He's given us something to whine about.
    anonymous
  • Don't hold your breath

    Conroy didn't apologise for calling filtering opponents paedophiles, and he didn't apologise for pressuring Mark Newton to shut up....he seems to believe he's part of a holy crusade and righteousness is on his side. He can do no wrong.....

    The Opposition should be asking for his resignation, not just an apology.
    anonymous
  • For taking themselvs out...

    For taking themselvs out... Get off it, you didnt even let them participate in the trial you stupid politition
    anonymous
  • Legal action

    If iiNet want to take legal action against him for slander and possibly biasing an active court case then I'll chip in money towards their legal fees. If the case even made it to court then surely it would be enough to warrant his suspension from his ministerial position.
    anonymous
  • it's about his experience, dummy

    Have a look at his CV online. Won't take long, given that he never seems to have had a real job in his life, and has absolutely no technology experience. Surely it is better to hire someone for this kind of position from outside the govt as they do in most other civilized countries. I bet he owns a Dell, and uses IE 6.x
    anonymous
  • Conroy is l33t!!11

    LOL or an old beige Compaq running WinME.
    anonymous
  • ...but not what we wanted him to do.

    About the only thing he's capable of. Does he know when it's a good idea to keep his mouth shut?
    anonymous
  • sigh

    it seems that Conroy has taken advantage of Rudd being out of town to run his mouth off the leash.

    witness the filtering commentary (Q&A, Insight), NBN, and now this.i wonder if Rudd will have the foresight when he comes back and apparrently announces NBN tender, to also hand off the proces and Comms minister job to someone not so prone to putting their foot in gob.

    i was ruminating the other night why didnt Kate Lundy get the folio? she seemed one of the few people ready to NOT make a dogs breakfast of it; and the job ultimately ended up with this complete and utter unknown instead. ("yes im a fan of technology!")

    its pretty clear now that you cant just hand this job over to someone thats a tech 'fan' or to someone for factional fit. the person in the job has to have some nous and understanding of the IT industry they are working in and you DONT get that by putting in the highest factional bidder or someone thats - while enthusiastic about tech doesnt have a grasp of the practical realities.

    after years of fulminating begging cajoling and plain out asking for a decent comms minister can the australian public finally get their wish?

    cos it certainly aint being fulfilled with Sen Conroy in the job.
    anonymous
  • Surely He Can Be Held Liable

    Surely Senator Conroy is up for charges .... Contempt of Court and perhaps Conspiracy to Pervert The Course of Justice ... for making such comments. Isn't it amazing what you can get away with, in front of millions of witnesses, when you're enough of a VIP?
    anonymous
  • VIP?

    VIP - Very Immature Person
    anonymous
  • cashola

    Same here, I will HAPPILY chip in to see this toolbag removed from office and either fined VERY heavily or placed in a nice location that involves bars. The long metal kind not the Stripper kind that Rudd approves of.
    anonymous
  • This article is very misleading...

    It suggests that Senator Conroy has made "proper" comments at some point. This is obviously incorrect, and should be rephrased for clarity.
    anonymous
  • Conroy Liable

    Hopefully he won't get away with it. Public statements that interfere with proceedings are taken very seriously by the Australian courts.

    My fingers are crossed that criminal charges against Conroy will be pressed, causing Rudd to pull him out of the portfolio

    Communications is as important to Australia as defence, and yet the minister's job has been given to a buffoon - a lying and deceitful buffoon at that
    anonymous