The family of trucking magnate Lindsay Fox sought legal advice over whether to sue an obscure Queensland website that posted rumours implicating the wealthy family in the Premier’s fall.
Lindsay Fox, who runs logistics giant Linfox, was originally thought to be at his sprawling cliff-top mansion on the March long weekend when Premier Daniel Andrews slipped at a nearby holiday home, feeding rumours the pair had spent time together that weekend.
Trucking boss Lindsay Fox’s family has sought legal advice on rumours circulating about Dan Andrews fall.Credit:Eddie Jim
A claim that Mr Andrews fell at the Fox house appeared in April on a Queensland blog, which also claimed photos of Mr Andrews in a hospital bed were doctored. The blog post gained traction on social media and was initially pushed by fringe conservative actors online before spreading in political circles.
The claims were also pursued by news outlets, including The Age, which sought a response from the office of the Premier, which denied that Mr Andrews was at the Fox house when he slipped.
Mr Andrews is a friend of Lindsay Fox’s son, Andrew Fox, who is responsible for Linfox’s airport and property arms.
A source familiar with the Fox family’s legal pursuit, who spoke to The Age on the condition of anonymity, said the online post prompted the trucking family to seek legal advice against the blog site in late April. The source said the family eventually decided against defamation action because it would have been a lot of time and energy and not worth the effort.
Despite the family’s belief that the action would have succeeded, the source told The Age the family opted for a strategy of dignified silence in the face of consistent rumours.
Mr Andrews, who last year fronted the media for 120 consecutive days during Victoria’s coronavirus second wave, hasn’t been seen in public since early March.
The 48-year-old state Labor leader was due to announce a “truth-telling” commission near Healesville on March 9 when he slipped while getting ready for work.
Initially his office briefed reporters that he was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays after falling.
Behind the scenes, his staff seemed increasingly concerned with his condition and six hours later confirmed the Premier had broken several ribs and suffered vertebrae damage after slipping at a holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula. The true extent of his fall was later realised when he was transferred to the intensive care unit at The Alfred hospital.
The initial discrepancy in updates coupled with private concern from staff about the seriousness of his condition triggered a flood of media inquiries. Many of the requests mirrored the rumours circulating online and were rejected by the Premier’s office, which considers the allegations too outrageous and disrespectful to warrant a response.
One senior Labor minister privately criticised the approach to the media and suggested that an initial vacuum of information around the fall only fuelled the rumours, which have since grown to include allegations Mr Andrews had an argument with another high-profile Melbourne businessman that resulted in a fall.
One Andrews government staffer, speaking to The Age, on the condition of anonymity said there had been some regret internally about the lack of detail provided by the Premier’s office in the days after the fall. The staffer said the vacuum created the environment for rumours to spread, and meant the government needed to be reactive rather than proactive.
Mr Andrews quietly left hospital on March 15. Avoiding a waiting press pack, he instead released a statement announcing he would take six weeks leave after fracturing at least five ribs and sustaining an acute compression fracture of the T7 vertebra.
Colleagues communicated with the Premier via text messages but the minister said Mr Andrews has mostly kept to himself during his recovery and taken little part in budget preparation.
On April 4, the Premier revealed he was walking up to 18 minutes a day, which surprised colleagues who assumed his recovery was progressing quicker.
With his six weeks leave period due to expire on Anzac Day, Mr Andrews provided another statement on April 18 confirming what many of his colleagues already knew; he would not return to the job until at least June. At the time, he tweeted; “You only get one chance to properly recover from serious injuries”.
Some of his cabinet colleagues had privately briefed journalists that his June return would likely be towards the end of June or early July, which would mean he wouldn’t face a gruelling question time until August when Parliament resumes. But last week, acting Premier James Merlino said Mr Andrews was still on track for a June return, saying his medical team was pleased with his recovery.
State Parliament sits twice in June with the first sitting week due to start on June 8.
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