Len Roberts and ABC settle defamation proceedings with public apology

DEFAMATION proceedings launched by Tea Gardens’ Len Roberts against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) have been settled, with the ABC publishing an apology to Mr Roberts.

The proceedings centred around an episode of the ABC’s Four Corners program, entitled Obeid Inc, which aired in November 2021.

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The episode explored links between a number of planned residential developments on the NSW Mid North Coast and the Obeid family.

Mr Roberts was interviewed for the program, with questions raised about his involvement in development plans for land at Sanderling Avenue, Hawks Nest; both in his capacity as CEO of the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council and as a MidCoast Councillor.

On Tuesday 4 April, the ABC offered the following apology on their website.

“On 8 November 2021 the ABC broadcast a program called Obeid Inc and published a transcript of that program on the ABC website.

“The publications included an interview with Mr Len Roberts, a First Nations person, and a former Councillor of the MidCoast Council, and a member and former CEO of the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council (KLALC).

“The publications contained allegations concerning the Obeid family’s role in property developments on the north coast of NSW.

“The ABC did not intend to suggest that Mr Roberts was working or co-operating with the Obeids or that Mr Roberts behaved in any way inappropriately in his roles as a former councillor and former CEO of the KLALC.

“If the program did inadvertently make those allegations about Mr Roberts the ABC unreservedly withdraws them.

“The ABC apologises to Mr Roberts for any hurt or embarrassment caused by the publications.”

A spokesperson for the ABC told News Of The Area, “The proceedings were commenced by Mr Roberts’ statement of claim filed in September 2022, which set out his concerns about the program.

“The ABC filed a defence in November 2022.

“The proceedings have since been resolved to both parties’ satisfaction on confidential terms including discontinuance of the proceedings and an agreed statement on the ABC Corrections and Clarifications webpage.”

Mr Roberts told NOTA he hopes the public apology from the ABC will “help restore” his reputation on the Myall Coast.

“I’m hopeful that it will be seen that I was wronged,” he said.

“The defence lodged in the Federal Court case by the respondent did not ever say that what was broadcast in the Four Corners program against me was true.

“Defences centred on issues of ‘public interest’.

“I was never able to understand how what was said about me could be in the public interest.”

Mr Roberts has maintained his innocence since the program aired.

“I hope that the outcome will be to restore my good name, recognising that I have always denied the truth of the allegations made about me in every respect.

“The public record shows that despite statements to the contrary I did declare a conflict of interest when the DA came before Council as required under council obligations in the matter as an Aboriginal and former CEO of KLALC.”

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