Latham turned down $20k offer to avoid defamation case

Miklos Bolza |

Mark Latham is being sued for defamation over a social media post about NSW MP Alex Greenwich.
Mark Latham is being sued for defamation over a social media post about NSW MP Alex Greenwich.

Controversial politician Mark Latham did not hand over $20,000 to avoid an independent MP’s lawsuit over an explicit tweet, instead saying he would strenuously defend any defamation claims against him.

In a settlement offer made in April 2023, Alex Greenwich said he would not resort to litigation if the then NSW One Nation leader paid the money and issued a public apology.

Mr Greenwich is suing for defamation in the Federal Court over a tweet sent in March 2023, days after the state election.

Alex Greenwich leaves the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney.
State MP Alex Greenwich has sued fellow MP Mark Latham over a social media post. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Latham’s explicit tweet describing a sex act was in response to a post quoting Mr Greenwich describing him as a “disgusting human being”.

Justice David O’Callaghan has already heard a two-day trial in which Mr Greenwich claimed his reputation was negatively impacted by the tweet which unleashed a flood of homophobic abuse and made him afraid to attend large public gatherings.

In the settlement offer, which was made public by the court on Monday, Mr Greenwich’s lawyers claimed that the tweet and later comments made by Mr Latham to the Daily Telegraph in April 2023 were defamatory.

He alleges in his lawsuit that the two publications separately depicted him as a disgusting human being and as someone who went into schools to groom children to become gay.

Alternatively, he claims Mr Latham accused him of being unfit to sit in parliament because of these reasons.

“You weaponised Mr Greenwich’s homosexuality in an effort to reduce Mr Greenwich’s personal and political legitimacy, and to cause him to be exposed to hatred, contempt and ridicule,” lawyer Nicholas Stewart wrote in the settlement letter.

The requested apology would have required Mr Latham to “unreservedly retract and withdraw” his statements and to “unreservedly apologise” for the hurt and distress he had caused.

In May 2023, Mr Latham’s lawyers rejected the proposed settlement offer, calling it disproportionate to the merits of the lawsuit.

Solicitor Danny Eid wrote that the defamation claims, which he said were completely misconceived, would be strenuously defended by Mr Latham.

Just over one week later, Mr Greenwich launched a three-pronged attack against his political rival, filing not only the defamation case but also a vilification lawsuit and a police complaint.

In his defence, Mr Latham denied that the tweet and his comments were defamatory or even targeted the openly gay MP specifically.

He has argued that Mr Greenwich’s reputation was not affected by the comments.

During the trial, Mr Latham’s lawyers pointed to the reputational impact he had as a result of the tweet, with a “pile-on” from those across the political spectrum including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson criticising the graphic tweet. 

The online sparring match between the two politicians followed violent protests outside a church in Sydney’s southwest where Mr Latham was giving a pre-election speech in March 2023.

About 250 mostly male counter-protesters violently attacked police and 15 LGBTQI protesters who had set themselves up outside the Belfield church.

Justice O’Callaghan has reserved his decision.