The Bush Lawyer's Guide to

Avoiding and Surviving Litigation Against Public Participation

Defamation Commercial Torts Trade Practices Abuse of Process

A Guide for Political Activists by Dr Greg Ogle


Surviving Suits

A Guide for Political Activists

What you might get sued for

Avoiding defamation suits

Protest risk minimisation

Responding to legal threats

Further information sources

Law Reform

Sport! Having fun with litigation

Being a Bush Lawyer

Bush Lawyer Awards

Threatening Wallpaper

Bush Lawyer Cases & Politics

GAGGED: The Gunns 20 and other law suits

Beating a SLAPP suit: Animal Lib SA

Gunning for Change: The Need for Public Participation Law Reform

The Gunns Case: Chilling the Environment Movement

Bruce Donald summarises a number of cases of "Defamation Against Public Interest Debate"

Hindmarsh Island - early days

Approaching the Court


This website is authorised by Greg Ogle on behalf of Bush Lawyers Ink, a not for profit legal service brought to you by the legal system's inability to protect the community's right and ability to participate in public debate and protest.


Who & Why?

I am pleased to say that I am not a lawyer. I am not going to explain much law here. This site is to provide political advice to activists facing the increasing threat of litigation. It is the information we would have killed for (in a nonviolent fashion) some years ago when a wave of defamation actions swept over the South Australian environment movement. Over two years the strongest campaign I had seen in 16 years of grassroots political activism was silenced by the legal system and by its own fear. I never want to see that happen again - and it need not!

This site is based on my activist experience following some dozen Hindmarsh Island related defamation cases in the 1990s, assisting the SA Conservation Council's barrister through the Council's 9 week trial and the Appeal, reading too many cases, surviving two separate threats to sue me, working with and being the court representative of Animal Liberation SA in a five year case which has included defeating two attempted injunctions, a contempt of court charge, and two attempts to strike out all defences, and finally, dealing with the massive case against environmentalists brought by Tasmanian logging giant Gunns Ltd beginning late in 2004.

The book about that experience is GAGGED: The Gunns 20 and other law suits.

We need law reform. We also need to play hard and use the equine nature of the law to our advantage. But we also need to recognise that being "litigation conscious" actually makes for more informed and effective political activism!

Why Bother

The right to free speech and political protest is fundamental as a human right, a hallmark of democratic society, and an important part in ensuring the accountability of those in power. Yet that freedom of speech, that right and ability to participate in public debate and political protest is as much threatened in Australia by civil litigation as by the actions of government. But don't take my word for it, listen to the High Court judge who found the implied freedom of speech in the Australian constitution:

‘potential civil liability in damages and costs is likely to represent a much more effective curtailment of the freedom of political communication and discussion than the possibility of conviction of most of the many criminal offences which are punishable by a pecuniary penalty’ (Sir William Deane in Theophanous).

And having quoted one judge, I'll quote another to make the broader point as to why protecting the rights of political activists is important. Now long dead and always a subject of controversy, Justice Lionel Murphy nonetheless said it best twenty years ago when judging whether a Queensland Aboriginal activist, Percy Neal, should receive a harsher punishment because he was a known activist:

‘If he is an agitator, he is in good company. Many of the great religious and political figures of history have been agitators, and human progress owes much to the efforts of these and the many who are unknown.’

Murphy went on to quote Oscar Wilde:

‘Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them ... there would be no advance towards civilisation.’

Murphy famously concluded, ‘Mr Neal is entitled to be an agitator.’
(Neal v the Queen, [1982] HCA)

Unfortunately, despite their love of the precedents, such sentiments do not always fall from judges.


This is my personal website and I alone am responsible for its contents, but thanks to the people who have provided information, publicised and supported this website. I will not name them "out of an abundance of caution" (as a lawyer I know would say).

No thanks to Justice Williams-Vale and the other judges, lawyers and politicians who maintain or benefit from a legal system which has not come to terms with free speech and the right and ability to participate in public debate and political protest.

Mostly though, thanks to all those who, in the face of our suffocating laws and outrageous civil litigation, stared down the threats, fought the cases and continue to campaign to make the world a fairer, greener place.

Remember the bush lawyer's golden rule

Be careful, not silent

Note: This website is inactive and not being maintained. You are welcome to whatever is useful, but no guarantees that it is up to date.