Alex Greenwich Vs Mark Latham: Lawyers Say Anti-LGBT Tweets ‘Offensive’, Not Defamatory

Alex Greenwich Vs Mark Latham: Lawyers Say Anti-LGBT Tweets ‘Offensive’, Not Defamatory
Image: Source: Alex Greenwich and Mark Latham

A defamation case brought by independent MP Alex Greenwich against Mark Latham officially commenced yesterday (Wednesday May 23rd) in Federal Court, where it has been claimed vile comments from Latham were “vulgar and shocking”, but not defamatory. 

Greenwich initiated legal action for defamation against Latham last year after the former OneNation member refused to apologise for words said about Greenwich on Twitter, now X, on March 30th 2023. 

The highly derogatory tweet was made after Greenwich called Latham a “disgusting human being” for a speech made about the LGBTQI+ community at a Catholic church in south west Sydney. This event prompted protests from 15 LGBTQI+ advocates, who were met with violent counter-protests. 

After Greenwich made his comments to the Sydney Morning Herald, Latham responded to a tweet quoting the article, calling Greenwich disgusting and describing sexual activity in a highly explicit manner. 

The comments received widespread derision; even OneNation leader Pauline Hanson called on Latham to apologise (although she still backed him as a politician). 

The Alex Greenwich vs Mark Latham trial so far

Latham’s lawyer Kieran Smark SC acknowledged today (May 24th) that Latham’s comments were “vulgar and shocking” but insisted that they did no damage to Greenwich’s character. 

“When it comes to serious harm, we can see a kind of… almost universal revulsion at the primary tweet, but that does not directly mark it as defamatory,” said Smark. 

Smark says that Latham’s comments may have wounded Greenwich personally, but said that it did not ruin the independent MP’s reputation.

This contrasts with a witness testimony from Greenwich on day one of the trial (May 23rd), where he said: “Since this tweet was put out into the world… I have wanted it to go away. I’ve been in public life for a long time. I have during that time tried to just make the point that gay people are normal; we’re just like everybody else.” 

The MP’s claim is that Latham’s tweet and further comments to The Daily Telegraph have had multiple defamatory meanings, while Latham denies that his words carry those meanings. 

In an affidavit, Greenwich wrote that the abuse he received because of the tweet gave him anxiety and panic attacks, made him reluctant to attend public events and even had him considering retiring from politics. 

During his opening statement, Greenwich’s barrister Matthew Collins KC stated that Latham’s tweet went as “low as possible” and relied on outdated stereotypes about gay men. 

Collins added that Latham focused heavily on targeting Greenwich’s sexuality online, stating that Latham was unequivocally to blame for the incident. Rather than engaging in public debate, Latham “went as low as possible in the… tweet and then the conduct that followed,” said Collins. 

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