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Homophobic tweet ‘unleashed demons’, death threats: court

Written by on May 22, 2024

A homophobic tweet by former NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham targeting independent MP Alex Greenwich “unleashed demons” and death threats, a court has heard.

The Sydney MP launched defamation proceedings against the controversial and newly-independent Mr Latham in May last year following a graphic and homophobic tweet.

In a statement of claim, Mr Greenwich alleged Mr Latham painted him as “not a fit and proper person” to be in parliament because he “engages in disgusting sexual activities”.

He further alleged Mr Latham portrayed him as “a disgusting human being who goes to school to groom children to become homosexuals” in a subsequent media interview.

Appearing before the first day of the defamation hearing at the Federal Court on Wednesday, Dr Matt Collins AM KC said Mr Greenwich’s “life had changed” as a result of the tweet.

In his opening address, Dr Collins claimed Mr Greenwich had since started suffering panic attacks as a result of Mr Latham’s comments, and felt unsafe in public and at gatherings.

“The impact has been so severe that he (Mr Greenwich) has found himself questioning whether he can continue to serve the people of NSW in public life,” Dr Collins said.

Mr Greenwich’s barrister said the MP closed his office following the comments out of fears for the safety of himself and his staff, who were trained in handling suspicious mail.

The former NSW One Nation leader called Mr Greenwich “disgusting” and made crude comments about anal sex in the tweet, which was removed after just 2.5 hours online.

Nonetheless, Dr Collins claimed the “maelstrom of the tweet” served to keep the matter in the media and sparked a torrent of abuse online and in written correspondence.

In his opening address, Dr Collins set to lay out a war of words between the men sparked by a riot outside a Sydney church at which Mr Latham was due to speak in March.

More than 200 churchgoers clashed with about 15 protesters from the LGBTQ+ community who the court were told had liaised with NSW Police prior to the event.

In the days after, Mr Latham said he was expecting a “normal constructive discussion” and condemned co-called “transgender radical left wing activists” for sparking the clashes.

“Far from condemning the very violent protest churchgoers had engaged in, he instead said the law should deal with the 15 or so counter protesters,” Dr Collins said.

Dr Collins claimed Mr Latham gave a version of events to the media that differed from reports by police to the media, including that the activists had blocked road access.

“To put it crudely, Mr. Latham started it … To characterise the tweet, as nothing more than a response to some unprovoked attack by Mr. Greenwich is flatly wrong,” he said.

Dr Collins said in the interviews Mr Latham “got the facts hopelessly wrong” having accused Mr Greenwich of having “instigated a very violent confrontation”.

A number of earlier posts by Mr Latham were shown in court, including one in which he claimed Mr Greenwich and Chris Minns were “legislating to control the lives of little kids”.

The posts included a number of images of Mr Greenwich at World Pride Week events in Sydney, and referred to the so-called “Alphabet Tourists” or LGBTQ+ peoples.

Mr Latham has denied defaming Mr Greenwich, with his barrister telling the court last year the tweet was a reasonable response to the initial attack and was his honest opinion.

The former NSW One Nation leader claimed in the post to X, formerly Twitter, that Mr Greenwich engaged in “disgusting sexual activities”, but later deleted the tweet.

Mr Greenwhich last year offered Mr Latham a chance to settle outside of court and set a clear deadline for an apology; Mr Latham refused and matter went to hearing.

The hearing in the Federal Court is expected to run for five days, with a range of witnesses including Mr Greenwich, his husband, as well as members of his staff.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.