Adam Bandt threatens legal action against Mark Dreyfus over ‘defamatory’ comments

Ellen Ransley
The Nightly
Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt reacts during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, June 6, 2024. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt reacts during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, June 6, 2024. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING Credit: LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE

Adam Bandt has threatened legal action against the Attorney-General, accusing Australia’s first law officer of making defamatory statements about him and the Greens.

It was revealed at Senate estimates that there had been 725 threats to MPs in the current financial year and amid reports the Prime Minister’s own Grayndler electorate office has been inaccessible for months due to blockades.

The Government and the Coalition teamed up on Wednesday to accuse the minor party of anti-Semitism, misinformation, and encouraging disruptive protests and attacks on electorate offices.

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While those comments were made under parliamentary privilege, Mr Bandt has singled out comments made by Mark Dreyfus on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing later in the day.

When asked how many electorate offices were not being used as usual because of threats or attacks on them, Mr Dreyfus said there had been quite a number and he was “very concerned about the role the Greens political party has played in this”.

Attorney-General and Acting Foreign Minister Mark Dreyfus speaks to media during a doorstop at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne, Thursday, December 28, 2023. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus made the comments in question on an ABC show on Wednesday. (AAP Image/James Ross) Credit: JAMES ROSS/AAPIMAGE

Mr Bandt said the statements were “defamatory… about me and the Greens”.

“I think that the first law officer of this country should not make utterly unfounded statements and spread disinformation. No politician should do that,” he said.

“I would prefer not to have to pursue these matters legally, and I hope the Attorney-General will respond in a proper way.”

The Attorney-General’s office has not yet issued a response.

In a fiery press conference, a combative Mr Bandt denied his party had played any role in violent protests, stressing the Greens were a party of “peace and non-violence”.

“There is no place for violence in this country. Everyone deserves a safe workplace,” he said.

He said the Government’s “outrageous” accusations that the Greens were involved in the protests were a “desperate attempt to distract from Labor’s ongoing complicity in the genocide”.

He went on to accuse the Labor party of “refusing to call for a permanent ceasefire”, despite Foreign Minister Penny Wong making her strongest statement yet on Tuesday that “this war must end”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused the Greens of anti-Semitism on Wednesday. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

It followed an explosive Question Time on Wednesday, triggered after independent MP Sophie Scamps put to the Prime Minister that her electorate was “utterly appalled by the atrocities committed by Hamas” on October 7, and “deeply distressed by the immense human suffering in Gaza”.

In response, Anthony Albanese said all political leaders must “prevent conflict”, and that there was “no place for anti-Semitism… Islamophobia”, before alleging misinformation was being “consciously and deliberately spread by some Greens senators and MPs”.

“Enough is enough. The time for senators and members of parliament to continue to inflame tension outside of these offices must end,” Mr Albanese said, alluding to the blockade outside his own office which has been attended by deputy Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi, and the defacing of Labor MP Peter Khalil’s billboard by young Greens, among other instances.

Speaking on indulgence, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Greens should “condemn” the rise in anti-Semitism “instead of condoning it”.

Mr Dutton doubled down on Thursday morning, labelling the Greens as “evil” and Mr Bandt “unfit to be in public office”, linking them to “the distribution of hate and anti-Semitic messages online”.

When those comments were put to Mr Bandt, he replied he would not be lectured by someone who “backed the invasion of Gaza to this day, and the unfolding suffering we see before our eyes”.

He had similar comments about the Labor Party, who the Greens have accused of exporting weapons and ammunition to Israel.

Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather questioned when Labor would cancel its contract with Elbit Systems, to which Mr Albanese denied having exported any weapons or ammunition to Israel in the last five years.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy accused the minor party of peddling “misinformation”.

He confirmed Australia had a contract with Hanwha Defence Australia to build infantry fighting vehicles in Australia, but Hanwha’s contract to Elbit Systems to build turrets had nothing to do with Australia.

“Any suggestion that we are exporting weapons or ammunition to Israel is false,” Mr Conroy said.

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