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Twist in Latham, Greenwich court battle

Upper Hunter by Election
Mark Latham will give evidence at the trial. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Peter Lorimer.

Attempts to resolve a defamation matter between independent MP Alex Greenwich and former NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham have failed, with the politicians set to come face-to-face when the matter goes to trial.

Mr Greenwich claims Mr Latham painted him as someone who “goes to schools to groom children to become homosexual” following a graphic and homophobic post on X by the former NSW One Nation leader in which he claimed the independent MP engaged in “disgusting sexual activities”.

Mr Latham deleted the tweet after a public uproar and demands for an apology.

Mr Greenwich offered Mr Latham a chance to settle the matter outside of court along with a firm deadline for an apology, to which Mr Latham refused.

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Defamation proceedings were launched in May by Mr Greenwich over the post and comments Mr Latham made to The Daily Telegraph just two days later.

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Court documents reveal details of Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s defamation claim against Mark Latham. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Mr Greenwich claims one of the comments conveys the defamatory imputation he “is a disgusting human being who goes to schools to groom children to become homosexual”.

The matter was set down for mediation in the Federal Court last week, but Mr Greenwich’s barrister Dr Matt Collins AM KC told the court it did not “successfully resolve”.

“I regret the matter went to mediation last week but was not successfully resolved,” he told the court on Tuesday morning.

Justice Anna Katzmann responded: “Not as much as I regret it”.

The court was told the matter will now go to trial over five days, where both politicians are expected to give oral evidence.

Dr Collins told the court the pleading arises from an “unfortunate exchange of messages beginning with Mr Greenwich and responded to by Mr Latham”.

He described the incident as “notorious”.

“Mr Greenwich sent a message which was critical of Mr Latham, and in our case he responded in a wholly disproportionate, irrelevant and disgraceful tweet,” Dr Collins said.

“He unleashed a torrent of really despicable, homophobic and other abuse on Mr Greenwich.”

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Former NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham came under public scrutiny over a graphic tweet. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Instead of apologising, the court was told Mr Latham gave an interview to The Daily Telegraph, with both matters involved in the court proceedings.

Dr Collins said the issue of meaning in Mr Latham’s comments will be an issue at trial, as it exposed Mr Greenwich to “hatred, contempt and ridicule”.

The court was told Mr Latham will be using defences of honest opinion, qualified privilege and the new media defence of public interest.

“Your honour will need to determine whether Mr Latham subjectively believed there was public interest and whether that was objectively reasonable in the circumstances,” Dr Collins said.

Representing Mr Latham, Barry Dean told the court his client is going to argue Mr Greenwich’s reputation was “not affected in any material way”.

“He stands before the general public today in the same position he did, in the same way before Mr Latham made the comments about him,” Mr Dean said.

He told the court Mr Latham claims his X post was a response to an attack and his honest opinion.

In relation to the comments to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Dean says his client was asked to provide a comment by a journalist on the wider issue.

“It was only reproduced in a broader article about the situation,” he said.

The trial is yet to be given a date, but it is expected to last five days sometime in 2024.