Heston Russell wins defamation case against ABC

UPDATED 24 October 2023: The ABC was today ordered to pay Heston Russell’s court costs, the amount of which was not calculated or disclosed. However, the ABC’s own ‘external legal costs’ in this case have been declared at between $700,000 and $800,000. The amount of compensation payable to Mr Russell has been finally calculated at $412,315.48, reflecting $390,000 plus interest.


Former commando Heston Russell has won his defamation case against the ABC and been awarded $390,000 plus interest in damages.

FILE PHOTO: Then Captain Heston Russell in Afghanistan.

The retired major sued the ABC and two of its journalists in the Federal Court over stories that alleged and/or inferred that November Platoon, of which Russell was the commander, committed warcrimes in Afghanistan in 2012.

ABC alleged that November Platoon murdered an Afghan prisoner because they had too many prisoners to load onto an extracting helicopter.

Federal Court judge Justice Michael Lee had already ruled that 10 defamatory imputations were conveyed by the stories published by the ABC, and today’s ruling rejected the ABC’s public-interest defence.

Justice Lee awarded Mr Russell $390,000 plus interest, with costs to be decided separately.

“For reasons [outlined], no party emerges from this case without criticism, but my conclusion is that the respondents have not established the public interest defence and, as a consequence, Mr Russell is entitled to judgment and an award of ordinary compensatory damages” Justice Lee said.

In critiquing Mr Russell, Justice Lee said he believed the former solder had sued the ABC to further his public profile rather than to address a grievance.

“His actions are consistent with someone who has not suffered significant hurt, but rather embraced the public controversy occasioned by the dispute and used it to further his personal causes and profile,” Justice Lee said.

Outside the court after the ruling, Mr Russell told journalists the three-year fight to clear his name was the hardest battle of his life.

“I’ve had to fight harder mentally and emotionally than I ever had to fight … physically in combat,” he said.

“This whole ordeal has traumatised me and some of my soldiers more than any enemy we ever faced overseas.”

He said the defamation case against the ABC was never about the money, but was part of an oath he made to his grandfather.

“He said … “don’t let them do to your soldiers what they did to mine when we came back from Vietnam”.”






8591 Total Views 2 Views Today

Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

10 thoughts on “Heston Russell wins defamation case against ABC

  • 26/10/2023 at 12:29 pm

    Retired Major Heston Russell deserves more compensation that what he was awarded, and major’s are one the very first ranks to be afforded a general Salute using arms, and he also deserves one of them not only from his soldiers but from current serving soldiers.

    Have a quite Beer Sir, and share with your soldiers

  • 25/10/2023 at 5:33 pm

    When they dump the ABC board, Angus Taylor (i dont like to call him General because he doesn’t act like one) should follow them out the door

  • 25/10/2023 at 3:40 pm

    I am with the November Platoon
    As for the comments by the ABC
    If you were not there how can you comment.
    It is hearsay.
    Only speculating that can be made is if you served in a war situation.
    Had similar issues after Vietnam 67/68 3 RAR.

  • 25/10/2023 at 2:17 pm

    Typical ABC with its agenda. The award of damages is one aspect of resoluition. What is missing is an apology that fair minded Australians would expect from the tax funded media organisation. That won’t happen of course and ABC management should be ashamed.
    It was reported: ‘A judge has found a defensive mindset within the ABC caused it to publish defamatory reports that will cost the broadcaster almost $400,000’. (https://www.sheppnews.com.au/national/defensive-abc-to-pay-damages-to-defamed-platoon-leader-2/).
    I suggest it was a miserable and abusive mindset designed to cause as much damage as possible in the absent of evidence to suggest a finding for the ABC. Time for the ABC to be answerable to the public instead of vested interests, lobbyists and the current Government.

  • 25/10/2023 at 12:48 pm

    Of course, replace the term ‘ABC’ with ‘taxpayers’ will cover the costs. I’m not begrudging of course.
    The money should come from the back pockets of the anti-Australian vermin running that shit hole organization and the parasites it describes as journalists.
    Our government needs to grow a spine and sack every single ABC board member, editor and Left wing loser in that
    putrid cesspit.

  • 22/10/2023 at 12:29 pm

    For some reasons I cannot understand, many in this country and especially those within the ABC benefit from but despise our way of life and particularly those who defend it. Their ‘group think’ is atrocious and toxic and destructive.
    I suggest they should all get away from their protected bubble now and again.
    Get out there with those who have seen someone point a weapon at them and who as they will their muscles to move them, wonder if they’ll live.
    Many have been in the above situation just to protect the way of life of people like and including journalists. Only to be sneered at in return, selfish and amazing!

  • 22/10/2023 at 10:01 am

    Blood good job!!! The shitty journos and the ABC got off too bloody light, it should have been a lot more. The same people will do more mischief with other soldiers unless the fine is large enough to be a deterrent, and in this case it isn’t.
    If the first tour 1RAR diggers remember, there were some Australian journalists barred from our lines or from speaking with soldiers, because of their attitude and the rubbish that was being printed in Australian newspapers under their names…

  • 20/10/2023 at 2:46 pm

    The collection of flawed ‘comments’ and ‘contempt’ against Veterans by ‘amateurs’ – will go down in Australian history – for all time.

    There are professionals who know what has to be done at a highly charged moment in time – when colleagues are lost – or could be lost – and ‘armchair’ Generals are NOT the judge from afar – long after the event.

    Go back to your Cadets. And newsrooms.

    War has one rule.

    • 27/10/2023 at 6:16 pm

      Could not agree more Colin, Well said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *