Home Australia Robert Irwin gave Pauline Hanson EXACTLY what she wanted with his extraordinary legal threat. But there is a way to make things worse, writes PETER VAN ONSELEN

Robert Irwin gave Pauline Hanson EXACTLY what she wanted with his extraordinary legal threat. But there is a way to make things worse, writes PETER VAN ONSELEN

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The Please Explain cartoons that Pauline Hanson created have prompted Robert Irwin to send out a legal threat to sue. Above, his description of Irwin and Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Robert Irwin’s threat to sue Pauline Hanson over a satirical caricature of him that she used as part of a successful job in the Queensland government is a classic case of drawing attention to something that would otherwise have passed without much attention.

It is known as the Streisand effect. In 2003, Barbara Streisand attempted to suppress the publication of a photograph of her that, unbeknownst to her, revealed the location of her private vacation residence in Malibu. In doing so, she attracted national and international attention.

The images still fill the Internet today.

The One Nation leader has what she calls a series of ‘Please Explain’ cartoons that she uses to mock her political opponents. It can be a little fun, but it usually isn’t. I can’t imagine many people bother to check it that often.

The Please Explain cartoons that Pauline Hanson created have prompted Robert Irwin to send out a legal threat to sue. Above, his description of Irwin and Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Robert is seen here with his ex-girlfriend Rorie Buckey at the GQ Australia Men of the Year Awards in Sydney on December 6.

Robert is seen here with his ex-girlfriend Rorie Buckey at the GQ Australia Men of the Year Awards in Sydney on December 6.

But by threatening to sue Hanson for using his likeness, Irwin has drawn all kinds of attention to the cartoon. I, for one, would never have seen it.

And for what purposes and why? For using his image in a way that didn’t even treat him as the butt of the joke? Irwin was simply the vehicle to attack the state Labor government.

The cartoon shows Irwin and Bluey, showing off the best that Queensland has to offer, only to be thwarted by housing problems, youth crime and healthcare. Irwin’s character says, “I can’t believe this is the state of Queensland.”

Honestly, the young man should think twice before asking the lawyers to send a demand letter. It really is a perfect example of the Streisand effect here in Australia.

The wildlife advocate and reality TV star (and his lawyers, for that matter) don’t seem to understand that the cartoon series is an example of satire and parody, which creates a much higher hurdle to overcome when trying to prove defamatory accusations.

I’m not a lawyer, but what exactly was defamatory in the budget animation? That Irwin would take part in a play about Queensland without being paid well for doing so? Don’t you want others to think that they too can use his image without the dollars coming in?

Maybe I should sue Irwin for forcing me to write an article defending Pauline Hanson, which isn’t exactly my bread and butter.

A few years ago, Sky News presenter Chris Kenny successfully threatened to smear the ABC over a Chaser parody in which he was the butt of the joke and their characterization of him was vulgar.

Pauline Hanson (pictured) won't mind the attention Irwin's legal threat is giving her.

Pauline Hanson (pictured) won’t mind the attention Irwin’s legal threat is giving her.

Robert Irwin (pictured) sent Pauline Hanson a 'please explain' legal threat over her cartoon

Robert Irwin (pictured) sent Pauline Hanson a ‘please explain’ legal threat over her cartoon

The public broadcaster apologized and paid an undisclosed sum, although the Chaser team was certainly not happy about it.

But the Irwin case is very different.

For someone who makes a living being a good guy and a down-to-earth Australian, calling lawyers 30 steps away doesn’t necessarily fit the public image he’s looking for.

And what did Pauline think she was going to do when she received the letter? Capitulate and fall in on yourself to ask for forgiveness? She clearly doesn’t know much about Hanson’s history in politics over the past three decades.

She thrives on free media attention and controversy to shore up her minor party’s ability to be re-elected, picking fights with anyone who aligns themselves with the law and intimidation.

Unfortunately for Irwin, he’s given Hanson exactly what she wanted in this case. The only way she could make a bad situation even worse would be to redouble her efforts and follow through on her threats.

Suing Hanson would be the kind of media circus she would enjoy in the run-up to the federal and Queensland elections, and the attention would hurt him, not her. And that’s regardless of whether she wins or loses in court.

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