Loss jump starts toad enterprise

Greens MLC Ian Cohen (pictured) now has an even bigger motive to make his dream business of cane toad leather garments a reality: $1.015 million in court costs.

On Tuesday, the Byron Bay-based politician failed in his bid to seek leave to the High Court of Australia to appeal a decision of the NSW Supreme Court of Appeal in relation to a defamation matter.

In 2001, Mr Cohen made some comments about property developer Jerry Bennette at a fundraiser for environmentalist Bill Mackay, whom Mr Bennette was suing for defamation resulting from comments in a letter to the Byron Echo.

Mr Bennette had engaged a private investigator who reported the comments at the meeting.

In July 2007 Justice Harrison of the NSW Supreme Court ruled in Mr Cohen’s favour.

Mr Bennette ran a successful appeal and Mr Cohen was ordered to pay him $15,000.

Mr Cohen then sought leave to the High Court to appeal the decision but on Tuesday he lost his bid and had costs awarded against him.

“I’ve been several times to my bank manager. I’m looking at selling my property, looking for loans and support from community; the difficulty is getting the money in such a short period,” Mr Cohen said. “I see the court systems at the higher levels of appeal are somewhat alienated from the realities from life. The judgement was made on the finer points of law, unlike the Supreme Court where the judge was able to hear witnesses from both sides and found in my favour.”

Mr Cohen said the ruling had an impact on his approach.

“It makes me more careful with what I’m saying and less able to represent my community effectively,” he said. “However, I don’t lose touch with being a passionate conservationist, and now I will turn my mind enthusiastically to cane toad leather.

“I’ve had the dream for some time of becoming a cane toad billionaire, being to cane toads what Paul Newman is to sauce, so now there’s an imperative.

“If I can make a million dollars from cane toads and clean up the environment the overall experience will be a positive in my life.

“The biggest problem I’ve got at the moment on this fascinating journey is to find someone to skin the cane toads. I feel confident in doing the marketing and sales of these ecological pests. I’ve skinned a cane toad but it needs a level of expertise beyond me.”

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