The union ultimately escaped liability because it was not operating in “trade or commerce” and the legislation that prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct only applies in that sphere.
Justice Geoffrey Flick also held that while the union’s campaign may have hurt Aldi, it did not meet another aspect of a legal claim for injurious falsehood: intending to injure the supermarket giant.
Instead, Justice Flick found the road safety concerns being expressed by the union “were concerns which it genuinely held”. He also ruled the union genuinely believed Aldi could “do more to further the company’s concerns as to road safety”.
University of Sydney media law expert David Rolph said the law made it deliberately difficult to prove injurious falsehood and misleading or deceptive conduct claims in order to protect free speech.
“For the purposes of injurious falsehood you have to demonstrate that their dominant motive is an improper one, so it’s a very high threshold that they have to set out to prove,” Professor Rolph said.
In a statement issued before the decision, the TWU’s national secretary Michael Kaine said he was “hopeful that justice will prevail and the courts will recognise the rights of truck drivers to speak out about the pressures they are under to take safety risks”.
“This is a serious safety issue given the high numbers of truck drivers and other road users dying in truck crashes,” he said.
Aldi has been contacted for comment.