Local Greens MP Ian Cohen
Local Greens MP Ian Cohen

MP needs a little help from his friends

LOCAL Greens MP Ian Cohen will call on friends in high places – including alternative music star Michael Franti – to scrounge together the $1 million he needs after losing a defamation case on appeal.

Mr Cohen has launched a public appeal to help pay legal costs after last week failing in a bid to appeal the ruling against him to the High Court.

Yesterday he said he would also reach out to Mr Franti, who he taught to surf, and ask him to hold a fundraiser in the United States.

“I’ll be contacting Michael Franti’s agent to see if he can give me a hand,” Mr Cohen said.

“Given that I’m the first person that gave him surfing lessons.”

The Broken Head-based MP said he would also ask Greens Senator Bob Brown to come to Byron Bay over Christmas for a separate fundraiser.

“I’ll be chasing him for a fundraiser,” he said.

But many friends and supporters had already donated to the cause, he said.

“There’s a steady stream of small and medium donations, which has been fantastic,” Mr Cohen said.

“I’ve really been buoyed by people’s response.

“We’re up to four figures.”

Earlier this year, he was ordered by the NSW Appeal Court to pay $15,000 in defamation damages after developer Jerry Bennette successfully overturned an earlier decision by the Supreme Court to rule in Mr Cohen’s favour.

The case dates back to comments the MP made at two public meetings at the Suffolk Park Progress Hall in 2001, staged to raise money for an environmental activist being sued at the time by Mr Bennette.

Mr Cohen said he would probably need to hand over the more than $1.015 million by early next year.

Mr Cohen again denied Mr Bennette’s contention that he could have settled the case for just $4500 five years ago.

The legal costs associated with the offer, Mr Cohen said, would have been prohibitive.

“At the time it was about $100,000 in costs,” he said.

“It seemed like an outrageous amount.”


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