Mark Latham’s message was offensive but lawyers argue it did not damage reputation of Sydney MP Alex Greenwich

Miklos Bolza
AAP
2 Min Read
Mark Latham heads to court.
Mark Latham heads to court. Credit: AAP

An offensive tweet from Mark Latham would have hurt an independent Sydney MP’s feelings, but it did not harm his reputation, lawyers for the conservative firebrand have argued.

Alex Greenwich has sued the former NSW One Nation leader for defamation in the Federal Court over a tweet sent in March 2023, days after the state election.

Mr Latham’s explicit tweet describing sex acts between men was in response to an earlier post quoting the independent state MP describing him as a “disgusting human being”.

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Mr Greenwich, who is gay, claims Mr Latham’s post defamed him by claiming he engaged in disgusting sexual acts and was not fit to be a politician.

But on Thursday, Latham’s barrister Kieran Smark SC rejected that argument about the “striking” tweet.

“It is offensive and crass and vulgar, but we’ll have to grapple with it all,” he told Justice David O’Callaghan.

“Mr Latham’s tweet may have wounded Mr Greenwich, but it didn’t wound his reputation.”

Just because something was vulgar did not automatically make it defamatory, Mr Smark added.

The independent MP has also sued over statements by Mr Latham published in the Daily Telegraph in April 2023, which he says defamed him further by accusing him of grooming children in schools.

Mr Smark denied these imputations were carried and argued that these statements also did not harm Mr Greenwich’s reputation.

“(We don’t) deny the reality of the evidence that Mr Greenwich and others have given as to the hurt and offence that was caused to him by this tweet,” he said.

In weighing up whether a publication was defamatory, a court had to consider both freedom of speech and a person’s ability to protect their reputation from harm, Mr Smark said.

Mr Greenwich previously told the court that the tweet had caused him anxiety, panic attacks and fear of being in large public gatherings.

He said his mental state made him question whether he could continue advocating for his voters as well as the wider LGBTQI community.

Mr Greenwich’s barrister Matt Collins KC said the tweet had unleashed a torrent of abuse, including death threats, on the Sydney MP and those working at his electorate office.

The online sparring match between the two politicians followed violent protests outside a church in Sydney’s southwest where Mr Latham was giving a pre-election speech in March 2023.

About 250 mostly male counter-protesters violently attacked police and 15 LGBTQI protesters who had set themselves up outside the Belfield church, the court was told.

The hearing continues.

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