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NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham files defence over alleged homophobic comments

NSW upper house MP Mark Latham has filed his defence to a defamation suit brought against him in the Federal Court, claiming he was publicly attacked before sending an allegedly homophobic tweet.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich sued his political colleague in May, alleging Mr Latham’s comments had portrayed him as engaging in “disgusting sexual activities” and as not being a fit and proper person to serve in parliament.

Mr Greenwich has sued on two publications, including the original tweet Mr Latham posted to his 66,000 followers on March 30, 2023.

The ABC has chosen not to republish the contents of the explicit post referencing sexual activity.

Mr Latham will also defend comments published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper following the incident, which Mr Greenwich claims painted him as a “disgusting human being who goes to schools to groom children to become homosexual”.

In his defence filed on Monday, the One Nation figure claimed newspaper articles published in the fallout of the incident and responses from politicians had “enhanced the reputation of Greenwich”.

His lawyers have denied Mr Greenwich was entitled to damages or an injunction preventing Mr Latham from making similar comments in the future.

The documents state the former leader of the federal Labor Party would rely on the defences of qualified privilege, public interest and honest opinion.

His lawyers argue the allegedly defamatory tweet came after Mr Greenwich had first called him a “disgusting human being” in comments published by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

They were used in articles covering a violent clash between protesters at a church in Sydney’s south-west where Mr Latham had been invited to speak at an event.

Mr Latham’s lawyers wrote that the tweet was published as a comment to another post carrying “both Greenwich’s attack and the online SMH attack”.

“Latham posted the Primary Tweet pursuant to a duty or interest to respond to the attack on his reputation,” the documents state.

The later quotes he provided to the Telegraph reporter Linda Silmalis was the result of “significant media coverage directed toward the fitness of Latham” after the allegedly defamatory tweet.

They were the first public comments from Mr Latham after he deleted the tweet amid backlash from across the political spectrum, including the national One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.

The defence documents state there was a “reciprocal interest” in providing the quotes to Ms Silmalis, as he needed to defend his reputation and she required them for a news story about the issue.

He knew she was an experienced journalist who would publish the quotes responsibly, and believed there was a public interest in his comments being released, the documents state.

“Latham was a politician responding to a request for comment from a journalist about a highly topical political issue of the week and where immediate comment and publication of that comment was required.”

He has also claimed Mr Greenwich did not suffer serious harm as a result of the comments, due to the “statements of support for Greenwich and criticisms of Latham across politics and the media”.

“[T]he 15 online newspaper articles particularised … and responses from politicians, media personalities and other members of the public within enhanced the reputation of Greenwich and evidenced that Latham’s publication of the Primary Tweet and DT Quotes had enhanced not damaged Greenwich’s reputation.”

The first case management hearing in the lawsuit has been set down for September 25 before Justice Anna Katzmann.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-08/mark-latham-alex-greenwich-defamation-case-defence/102703090 NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham files defence over alleged homophobic comments

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