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Latham says tweet enhanced, not harmed MP’s reputation

Mark Latham's tweet caused people to send threatening messages to an MP's office, a judge has heard.

Mark Latham's tweet caused people to send threatening messages to an MP's office, a judge has heard. Photo: AAP

NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham has said a graphic tweet about Alex Greenwich that was widely condemned had improved rather than harmed the MP’s reputation.

Mr Latham is being sued for defamation in the Federal Court over the tweet sent on March 22 which described explicit sexual acts he claimed were engaged in by Mr Greenwich.

The tweet targeted the independent politician as an openly gay politician and was in response to statements calling Mr Latham a “disgusting human being” after LGBTQI+ protesters were attacked outside a Sydney church hall where he made a speech before the NSW election.

In a defence filed Monday, Mr Latham denied the tweet caused serious harm to Greenwich’s reputation.

Figures such as federal One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, Sky News host Erin Molan, NSW Labor Minister Penny Sharpe and NSW Labor Premier Chris Minns had all condemned Latham for the statement and supported Greenwich.

These responses “enhanced the reputation of Greenwich” and were proof that the tweet and Mr Latham’s later comments to a News journalist “had enhanced and not damaged” his reputation.

Mr Latham swiftly deleted the tweet – the graphic contents of which we have chosen not to detail here – but made comments afterwards to journalist Linda Silmalis which were published in The Daily Telegraph.

“When he calls someone a disgusting human being for attending a meeting in a church hall, maybe attention will turn to some of his habits,” he told her.

Mr Greenwich alleges the tweet and statements to The Daily Telegraph were defamatory because they implied he engaged in “disgusting sexual acts” and was not a fit and proper person to be a member of NSW parliament because of this.

He claims he has been exposed to hatred, contempt and ridicule as a result of the comments, and his personal and professional reputation has been “gravely injured”.

In his defence, Mr Latham denies the tweet conveyed these imputations but says that even if they did, he cannot be hit with damages for defamation.

Claiming qualified privilege, Mr Latham said he had a right to comment after being attacked repeatedly by Mr Greenwich and others about the clash between LGBTQI+ protesters and Christian “activists”.

“The primary tweet and the Latham attacks resulted in significant public media coverage directed towards the fitness of Latham, as a re-elected MLC to serve in public life,” he wrote.

He has also argued his comments were in the public interest, concerning the fitness and conduct of a member of NSW parliament, and that they were his “honest opinion” at the time.

He has denied that Mr Greenwich is entitled to any sort of damages over the comments.

However, if the court did rule in favour of the independent MP, any damages paid would be reduced due to comments he made after the “homophobic attacks,” Mr Latham said.

The matter will next come before the Federal Court on September 25.

– AAP

Topics: Mark Latham
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