Radio 4CA presenter John MacKenzie is being sued for defamation by a Cairns property developer. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Radio 4CA presenter John MacKenzie is being sued for defamation by a Cairns property developer. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

Developer sues Qld shock jock, property boss over broadcast

A CAIRNS shock jock and prominent real estate agent are at the centre of a defamation lawsuit amid claims they falsely suggested a local property developer and his project were shonky.

Radio broadcaster John MacKenzie and CBRE managing director Danny Betros are being jointly sued for $389,500 by Cairns-based developer Raphael Noipo who is behind a proposed high-rise on Sheridan St.

CBRE managing Director Danny Betros.
CBRE managing Director Danny Betros. ANNA ROGERS

Mr Noipo, a former Papua New Guinea prime ministerial candidate, has claimed, in documents filed in the Cairns District Court in early 2018, the pair was on Mr MacKenzie's morning talk show on 4CA almost three years ago when they questioned the development and whether it would ever go ahead.

In part of the segment Mr MacKenzie discussed the project after seeing a story about it in the Cairns Post and asked Mr Betros for an opinion on its future.

"Yeah. Look John I think, um, I'll be underground before that ever happens," he said, according to a transcript in the court documents.

NOIPO Investments Pty Ltd's design plans for Cairns Citi Tower on Sheridan St, Cairns
NOIPO Investments Pty Ltd's design plans for Cairns Citi Tower on Sheridan St, Cairns

"That, um, that's by the New Guinea guy. Um, the pricing is, um, it's off the scale and, you know, I'd just be very, very surprised if that happens.

"That's just very shad ... not shady, very mysterious ownership of that property and the money behind it. I am very, very sceptical whether it will ever happen."

According to the court documents, Mr Noipo's legal representative said the comments were interpreted to mean his company had questionable connections, ownership and sources of funding and was an incompetent developer "for proposing a tower development on Sheridan St which has no real prospect of success".

Raphael Noipo. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS
Raphael Noipo. Picture: PETER CARRUTHERS

His legal representative claimed the discussion injured Mr Noipo's reputation, causing him to suffer ridicule and he needed compensation for the "hurt, distress and embarrassment".

Both Mr Betros and 4CA parent company Grant Broadcasters have, through legal representatives, said they would defend the lawsuit with Mr Betros's response saying the comments were taken out of context and were part of a wider discussion about CBD developments.

Further transcripts showed they also discussed the site above McDonald's on the Esplanade before one-time Cairns MP Gavin King joined the call and asked Mr Betros if Cairns had too many hotels with the impending GA Group sites.

"(It) was an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact. (It was) opinion related to matters of public interest," Mr Betros's court documents said.

The court file also contained a letter penned by lawyers for Grant and 4CA, offering a letter of apology and payment of legal costs.

"Our client is anxious to avoid any further concerns or costs to your client," it said.

"No personal criticism of you was intended and that segment was merely a rundown of the current real estate issues in Cairns."

The case is due to return to court on February 14.

Work is yet to start on the site despite the project receiving council approval almost a year ago.