The former chairman of Australia’s biggest co-operative is suing his one-time CBH board colleague for defamation over explosive claims made in a letter to the board, in print and radio interviews, and at CBH’s annual general meeting. The court action is another twist in the long-running and increasingly bitter saga between Newdegate farmer and former CBH chair Wally Newman and Pingelly farmer and former director John Hassell, who served on the board together for nearly a decade. In a writ filed in the WA Supreme Court recently, Mr Newman claimed his former fellow director defamed him over two matters between December and February. The specific allegations of defamation will be revealed in the statement of claim, but the legal action comes after Mr Hassell gave a series of explosive interviews earlier this year, accusing Mr Newman of making sexist comments towards a woman at a grains conference in Melbourne in 2017 and not honouring a subsequent agreement to step down from the board. Mr Newman alleged the first defamatory matter was contained in a letter to CBH directors just before Christmas last year and also broadcast by Mr Hassell in a radio interview with ABC journalist Emma Field on February 14, which was played on the WA Country Hour program. The second matter, he alleged, was also broadcast during the February 14 program, but was not in the letter to the CBH board. Mr Newman also alleged both matters were published online by the Australian Financial Review around February 14, in the story “Sexism claims rock giant farm exporter”, and again by the ABC on February 17 in two stories — “CBH chair Wally Newman facing serious allegations in board election at Australia’s largest wheat exporter”, and “CBH chair Wally Newman holds board seat despite admission of ‘inappropriate language’”. Mr Newman is seeking damages, aggravated damages, and interest on both at a rate of 6 per cent a year from the date the alleged damages occurred until the date of judgment. He is also seeking costs and any further or other relief determined by the Supreme Court. The writ did not say what the defamatory claims were but each of the stories Mr Newman claims contained defamatory material centre on the allegations he made the sexist remarks during a grains conference in Melbourne in 2017, a revelation made public by Mr Hassell in the lead-up to the CBH grower elections in February. Some of the stories also include allegations by Mr Hassell that a deal was struck in the wake of the investigation for Mr Newman to retire from the board at this year’s election — a claim Mr Newman has repeatedly denied. Mr Newman retained his seat at the February elections, despite releasing a statement saying he “acknowledged he had not always maintained” the highest possible standards, “in relation to the language I have used on rare occasions in the past”. He said a third-party investigator had investigated the matter and he had voluntarily undertaken “personal coaching” to rectify his behaviour. The Newdegate farmer sensationally quit the board in April after he was overlooked for the chairman’s role in a directors’ vote, ending his six-year stint in the chairman’s role. Mr Newman and Mr Hassell served on the board together for nine years but towards the end of that term were part of what Countryman understands were two separate factions of the board. Together, they fought off a multimillion dollar pitch to CBH grower members by Australian Grains Champion to corporatise the now 87-year-old co-operative. Mr Hassell was first appointed to the board in 2009 but resigned at CBH’s AGM in February 2018 to have another tilt at Federal politics as the WA Nationals candidate for O’Connor. After Mr Hassell announced his retirement from the board in October 2017, Mr Newman described him publicly as an “exceptional advocate for the co-operative” and wished him and his family “every success in his future endeavours”. It has been a turbulent six months for CBH, as dirty laundry from inside the boardroom became public with Mr Hassell’s claims. Shortly after, CBH’s new chairman. Simon Stead called for a grower members’ vote to remove now-former director Trevor Badger from the board. CBH alleged Mr Badger disclosed the name of the woman Mr Newman allegedly made the sexist remarks to, a claim Mr Badger has also repeatedly denied. In February, CBH moved to muzzle and sue another former directors, Morawa farmer Rod Madden, for allegedly divulging confidential information on radio and in emails. The case between Mr Newman and Mr Hassell is listed for a hearing via video link in the Supreme Court on July 2. Mr Hassell said he planned to fight the allegations but declined to comment further. Mr Newman did not return calls.