John Hewson sues over ACA flood report

·2-min read

Former federal Liberal leader John Hewson is set to testify in an upcoming defamation trial over an A Current Affair segment on wet furniture he claims defamed him.

The retired politician is suing the Nine Network over a May 2020 report on a Sydney couple's rejected $6000 insurance claim after water inundated a storage unit and damaged furniture.

Dr Hewson, the then-chair of the company that sold the couple's insurance policy, claims he was defamed by the program which suggested GSA Insurance Brokers "refused to pay out valid claims", the Federal Court heard on Thursday.

A policyholder told the program he believed the water damage wasn't caused by a flood, which was excluded in the insurance policy, and claimed "this is storm damage and they know it".

The man also urged Dr Hewson to "pay up" and "get your company to pay us", Dr Hewson's barrister told the court on Thursday.

ACA host Tracey Grimshaw was also drawn into the case over her comment at the segment's conclusion to "remember that name GSA" and her advice to viewers to read the fine print and maybe "shop around".

The 74-year-old former politician is also seeking aggravated damages, claiming his feelings were hurt further because he knew Nine knew their defamatory claims were false.

Hours before the program went to air, he put Nine on notice that GSA was only a broker and that a hydrology report commissioned by the actual insurer had found the water damage was caused by flood, Dr Hewson's barrister told the court.

Nine says the alleged defamatory meanings against Dr Hewson weren't conveyed and has also submitted a defence of honest opinion.

The court on Thursday allowed Nine to seek internal documents held by GSA to show who made the decision to reject the insurance claim.

"Common sense might tell you the GSA as the broker would be the effective party in the claim than the underwriter, given the underwriter's interest themselves in a $6000 claim," Tom Blackburn SC, acting for Nine, said.

Whether any of the imputations were conveyed would be a very live issue at the four-day trial set to begin on April 12, Mr Blackburn said.

"If the chairman of BHP or another big company ... if something happened to the discredit of the company, it might be thought fanciful that that reflects on the chairman," he said.