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Lawyers for independent NSW MP Alex Greenwich say the course of their client’s life was changed by a homophobic Tweet by upper house MP Mark Latham.

The member for Sydney, who is openly gay, is suing the former NSW One Nation party leader, now independent member, for defamation in the Federal Court, over a post in March 2023 on the social media platform now known as X. 

Mr Latham’s Tweet was in response to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, about an incident outside a Sydney church, in which a small group of LGBTQIA+ protesters were targeted by a mob of about 250 people. 

Mr Latham spoke at an event inside the church hall and had been campaigning on the issue of ‘gender fluid ideology’ in the lead-up to the state election, which was held just days later. 

In the Herald article, Mr Greenwich was quoted as saying, “Mark Latham is a disgusting human being and people who are considering voting for One Nation need to realise they are voting for an extremely hateful and dangerous individual who risks causing a great deal of damage to our state.” 

Mr Latham’s Tweet, five days after the election, was seen by more than 6,000 people before it was deleted. 

Opening his case in the Federal Court in Sydney today, Greenwich’s barrister Dr Matt Collins KC said, “In those two hours and 20 minutes (between the post going up and being taken down) the course of Mr Greenwich’s life changed.” 

“[I]t was too late,” said Collins. “The cat was out of the bag.” 

The court heard the “revolting” words in the Tweet, which LSJ Online has decided not to republish, triggered “utterly hateful abuse” in response. 

Collins argued that his client had been engaging in bona fide debate, but Latham “went as low as possible.” 

Collins said Greenwich tried to put on a brave face and attended an event, where people asked about what had happened. 

“[H]e went home and burst into tears. He spent the night crying,” said Collins. 

The court was told Greenwich now experiences panic attacks, feels anxious, lacks confidence and is reluctant to attend large gatherings. 

“[H]e has sought the assistance of a psychologist … [and] he continues to feel unsafe in his electorate office,” said Collins. 

Greenwich is also suing over comments by Latham in an article in The Saturday Telegraph. 

Latham was quoted as saying, “Sometimes in public life when you throw insults they come back at you harder and truer…So boo-hoo Alex Greenwich.” 

There were also references to Greenwich going to schools, to talk to children about being gay. 

“The quotes given by Mr Latham were pregnant with insinuation,” said Collins. 

The court heard Greenwich is relying on an argument of “true inuendo meaning”, that he is not fit for parliament because he engages in “disgusting sexual activities”. 

Greenwich was called to the witness box shortly before lunch and was asked for his response to the document which sets out the defence case to the court. 

“The document angered me and it saddened me,” said Greenwich. 

He described the document as an ongoing justification of the attack on him. 

“I have just tried to make the point, gay people are normal. They’re just like everyone else,” he said. 

Counsel for Mark Latham, Kieran Smark SC put it to Greenwich that his comments about Latham in the Herald, in the lead-up to an election, were provocative and likely to trigger a response. 

“Do you agree?” asked Smark. Greenwich responded, “No, I don’t.” 

“[T]his was my honest opinion and honest reaction, in the context of a state election.”  

Before giving evidence, Greenwich sat at a table behind his solicitors. 

At the start of the proceedings, Mark Latham was invited to sit at one of the rows of tables, if it would help him hear. 

He declined the invitation and remained seated in the first row of chairs at the back of the court.  

The hearing continues.