Federal Court hears Mark Latham’s tweet ‘was as low as it gets’ as independent MP Alex Greenwich sues former One Nation leader

An allegedly defamatory tweet by former One Nation leader Mark Latham about Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich “was as low as it gets”, a court has heard.

Greenwich is suing the NSW upper house MP in the Federal Court, alleging the late March 2023 tweet exposed him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule and “seriously damaged” his personal and reputation. professional.

A five-day hearing before Judge David O’Callaghan began today in Sydney.

Latham’s post was a response to the independent MP’s comments in a news article about LGBT protesters being attacked in a violent confrontation outside a church in western Sydney, where Latham was speaking.

Greenwich referred to Latham as a “disgusting human being.”

Mr Latham’s response on X, formerly Twitter, which ABC chose not to publish in full, began with “Disgusting?…” before describing the sexual activity in explicit terms.

Greenwich barrister Matthew Collins QC said the two politicians were “at different points on the political spectrum” in a state where politics was practiced “quite vigorously”.

Alex Greenwich at a press conference in Sydney

Greenwich alleges that the tweet exposed him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Latham targeted Greenwich’s ‘sexuality’, court told

During an opening address, counsel showed the court a series of social media posts by Latham using photographs of the independent MP in the months before the church incident.

“Mr Latham posted several issues on social media directed at Mr Greenwich, always focusing on his sexuality,” Dr Collins said.

“They were certainly ugly, but at least they had a tenuous connection to the issues that were happening in the city: the World Pride festival and political issues in reference to family politics.”

But things “escalated quite seriously,” Dr. Collins told the judge.

Referring to the church incident, Latham complained on social media about the “new rainbow fascism” and Dr. Collins said in an interview that he also accused Greenwich of being an “instigator” of the situation.

“To put it crudely, it was started by Mr Latham, not Mr Greenwich.”

By providing quotes to the Sydney Morning Herald about the church incident, Mr Greenwich was “participating in good faith in a public debate arising from a high-profile incident that was a matter of considerable public interest”, according to Dr Collins.

“Mr Latham, rather than engage in that debate, was as low as possible in the…tweet and then in the conduct that followed.”

Death threats and reputational damage

Collins said the reaction included death threats and “unbelievable epithets” about Greenwich’s sexuality.

“The reaction was stoked because what Mr Latham did was play into (and we submit that your honor would quite knowingly and deliberately infer) two well-worn stereotypes that have no place in modern Australia.”

Those stereotypes were that gay men were “somehow depraved” because of Mr. Latham’s presumption about sexual activities, and that they “cannot be trusted with children,” the lawyer said.

A middle-aged man in a suit walks away from a courtroom with his head bowed.

The tweet was in response to Greenwich’s comments about LGBT protesters being attacked outside a church in Belfield, where Latham was speaking.(ABC News: Keana Naughton)

Latham’s since-deleted tweet, which Dr Collins described as containing “disgusting words”, was posted at a time when some 66,000 accounts were following his profile.

Greenwich claims its reputation was harmed by four imputations or meanings, both in the tweet and in subsequent comments Latham provided to The Daily Telegraph.

The tweet’s alleged allegations include that Greenwich “engages in repugnant sexual activity” and that he “is not a fit person to be a member of the New South Wales Parliament because he engages in repugnant sexual activity.”

Alleged allegations from comments in The Daily Telegraph include that Mr Greenwich “is a disgusting human being who goes into schools to groom children to become homosexual” and “is not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Parliament of New South Wales”.

In his defense, Latham has argued that he was publicly attacked before posting the tweet and raised defenses of qualified privilege, public interest and honest opinion.

He claimed that articles published after the incident and politicians’ responses “enhanced Greenwich’s reputation”.

Aware , updated