A controversial right-wing activist and YouTuber who sued Victorian parliamentary officials for refusing to give him a press pass has lost his fight to overturn the decision.
YouTube personality Avi Yemini took legal action against three officials – including former Victorian lower house speaker Colin Brooks – after he was denied media accreditation in July last year.
Yemini – who is the Australian bureau chief for far-right Canadian media outlet Rebel News – claimed the refusal denied him natural justice and procedural fairness.
He also asserted the person who made the decision lacked the authority to do so.
But in a humiliating setback, the Supreme Court on Friday found Yemini had not established the decision to refuse his media accreditation was made by someone acting beyond their power or was made in jurisdictional error.
The application was refused.
Yemini, whose full name is Avraham Shalom Yemini, wasted no time in responding to the decision on his social media platforms.
“The Victorian Supreme Court has upheld a decision to refuse me a parliamentary press pass, giving Daniel Andrews complete control of media in Victoria‘s corridors of power. If he can do it to me, he can do it to anyone he wants,” he bemoaned in a tweet on Friday afternoon.
“Press freedom is dead.”
In a video posted on the Rebel News Australia website, Yemini asked his followers to donate to his legal fund so he could “live another day for the next fight”.
Yemini sued Mr Brooks, Legislative Council president Nazih Elasmar, and parliament’s Serjeant-At-Arms Paul Groenewegen after he refused to provide the reasons for refusing his media accreditation in October last year.
He asked the Supreme Court to quash the decision and allow his original application to be determined according to law.
Court documents reveal Yemini used a National Visits Media Card (NVMC) to gain entry to Victorian Parliament’s grounds for a press conference being held by Premier Daniel Andrews in February.
He was escorted from the grounds by security and banned for a week.
A subsequent application for a media pass was refused in July, with solicitors for Mr Groenewegen’s telling Yemeni’s legal team he was “not obliged” to provide reasons for the decision.
Yemini argued Mr Groenewegen had refused his pass but later submitted an “unknown person or official” had made the decision.
Supreme Court Justice Tim Ginnane ultimately found Mr Brooks made the decision to refuse Yemini’s application and he had the authority to do so.
“That decision was an exercise of parliament’s privilege to control access to the parliamentary precincts and the decision was within the exclusive cognisance or jurisdiction of parliament,” he said.
“The media accreditation scheme is not created by statute, nor resolution of the houses, it is an exercise of that privilege which has existed from ancient times.
“The exercise of that privilege is within the exclusive cognisance of the parliament and can be exercised by the speaker acting on its behalf or acting through an authorised officer.”
Justice Ginnane also found reasons did not need to be given because the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness did not apply for the speaker’s decision.
“This proceeding is not justiciable, because it falls within the exclusive cognisance of the parliament of Victoria as it involves the exercise of the privilege to control access to parliamentary precincts,” he said.
Yemini is a contentious figure in Australia’s media scene, boasting thousands of followers across his Facebook, YouTube and Twitter platforms alone.
He became well-known for his coverage of prominent protests, including anti-lockdown demonstrations in Melbourne.
In 2019 he was convicted by a court for assaulting his ex-wife by throwing a chopping board which hit her.
Victoria Police were forced to apologise to Yemini in June for wrongfully arresting him at several protests while he was working for Rebel News.