The ‘effs a goat’ call a Channel 10 star made about the network’s CEO on his way out the door – and the HR manager’s strange response… as he’s sued for ‘trashing the network’
- Peter van Onselen faced court on Thursday
- He is being sued by Channel 10
Former Project host Peter van Onselen claimed in court he only agreed to quit Ten after asking bosses if he could still write about the channel ‘if the CEO effs a goat’.
The channel’s ex-political editor is accused of breaching a non-disparagement clause in the redundancy terms he signed when he left the TV station in March.
But in the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday he insisted Paramount vice-president of human resources Anthony McDonald said he would not be strictly bound by the deed.
Dr van Onselen – who appeared on Zoom from his family holiday in Italy – insisted he had run a scenario past the company boss as a hypothetical example.
Former Project host Peter van Onselen (pictured, with Project host Lisa Wilkinson) claimed in court he only agreed to quit Ten after asking bosses if he could still write about the channel ‘if the CEO f***s a goat’
‘I said that if the CEO effs a goat and everyone was piling on Ten, surely I can pile on too?’ he said under cross examination by Ten’s barrister Arthur Moses.
Mr McDonald was said to have replied: ‘Of course mate, that sounds fair.’
In cross-examination under defence barrister Sue Chrysanthou, Mr McDonald denied the conversation took place, but Dr van Onselen insisted it did.
Dr van Onselen claims the deed – which was part of an ex-gratia $71,000 pay off deal with Ten after he took redundancy when they made his role full-time in Canberra – was a constraint of trade.
He claims he would be unable to do his job as a political and media commentator and academic professor if he was bound by the deed forever.
The legal row blew up after he wrote an article for his regular column in The Australian highlighting the slide in the share price of Ten’s US parent company, Paramount.
It was revealed in court the article was sparked after a message to Dr van Onselen from Ten’s news anchor Hugh Rimington, drawing his attention to the slide.
The article branded Ten a ‘minnow’ among Australia’s commercial channels and warned a crash in the company stock could spell ‘disaster’ for the network.
Ten claims the article breached the non-disparagement clause and launched the legal action in the Supreme Court.
The network is represented by Mr Moses, the high-flying counsel who represented Ben Roberts-Smith in his unsuccessful defamation action against Nine and the boyfriend of former premier Gladys Berejiklian.
The court heard Dr van Onselen had a series of conversations with his lawyer about the terms of his redundancy package in the lead up to his exit on March 3.
He told the court he was unable to track the changes being made to the deal because he was on holiday in New Zealand at the time and unable to view edits on his phone.
And he admitted he had signed the final contract without reading it fully.
‘That’s on me’, he admitted.
The channel’s ex-political editor is accused of breaching a non-disparagement clause in the redundancy terms he signed when he left the TV station in March (pictured, Dr van Onselen’s replacement Ashleigh Raper)
It was revealed in court the article was sparked after a message to Dr van Onselen from Ten’s news anchor Hugh Rimington (pictured), drawing his attention to the slide
But he said that he had interpreted the terms of the non-disparagement contract to be mutual and only related to his time while employed with Ten and not binding forever.
He said the terms of the deal as he understood it related to while he was employed there and in connection with the lawsuit against Ten by Canberra reporter Tegan George.
Dr van Onselen was named in the lawsuit which alleged the Canberra bureau was a ‘toxic’ workplace.
His high-profile lawyer Ms Chrysanthou SC, argued the non-disparagement clause was overbearing.
She said the commentator would technically be in contempt of court if he was dissatisfied with his Paramount+ streaming service and wrote an email of complaint to the company.
‘It puts him in breach if he says to his mates at the pub ‘I’m surprised Network Ten purchased that program, it’s not a good program’,’ Ms Chrysanthou told the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday.
‘It is a lifetime order being sought against a person whose profession it is to talk, and only being able to speak about Network Ten for his entire life in glowing terms would affect his legitimacy and professionalism as a commentator and as an academic.’
Justice David Hammerschlag, who is presiding over the hearing, rejected her assertion.
‘Well then why did he sign it? This is a contract case,’ he said.
The hearing is continuing.