11 June 2024

Greens leader threatens legal action against Attorney-General over 'defamatory statements'

| James Day
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Attorney-General talking at a press conference.

The Attorney-General voiced his anger without being under parliamentary privilege, which grants MPs the ability to speak freely without fear of prosecution. Photo: Supplied.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has been threatened with legal action by Adam Bandt, following his remarks on the Greens leader’s response to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The comments followed a heated debate in the Lower House on Wednesday (5 June), where the major parties criticised the Greens party for “consciously and deliberately spreading” misinformation. Together they claimed the Greens had incited pro-Palestinian protesters into demonstrations, which led to the targeting of politicians’ electorate offices.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was recently locked out of his electorate office in Sydney, following official security warnings that Islamist extremists were among the anti-Israel demonstrations.

After the debate, Mr Dreyfus appeared on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing and made what Mr Bandt considered to be “defamatory statements”.

“I think that the Greens political party and particularly the leader of the Greens political party have got something to answer for here in the way that they have been encouraging criminal damage of MPs’ electorate offices, encouraging really riotous behaviour, sometimes violent behaviour, that has been occurring outside electorate offices,” said Mr Dreyfus.

Due to being outside the realm of parliamentary privilege, the Attorney-General was vulnerable to prosecution over his comments.

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Yesterday (6 June) the Greens leader said his lawyers had written to Mr Dreyfus “regarding what I consider to be defamatory statements he made about me and the Greens yesterday”.

“I think that the first law officer of this country should not make utterly unfounded statements and spread disinformation,” said Mr Bandt. “No politician should do that.”

The Greens leader said he would prefer not to have to pursue these matters by taking legal action and would prefer that the Attorney-General would respond in a “proper way”. He also welcomed the restraint of media outlets who chose to stop broadcasting and publishing the Attorney-General’s statements over legal concerns.

“The Prime Minister and Labor are not the victims in these matters,” said Mr Bandt.

“The victims are the over 36,000 people killed in the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the hostages, and the 1200 people killed on October 7, compounded by the failure of the Labor Government to take action against the Israeli government’s invasion.”

While on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Mr Bandt should reflect on the “comments and accusations and language” his MPs had used before turning to litigation.

“We all have responsibilities, don’t we … and part of our responsibility is to ensure that whilst we can respect each other’s differences, that we demonstrate in how we act and how we speak it is not something this country does [where] we diminish another person, and condemn another person or abuse another person because they disagree with us.”

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Last Wednesday (29 May), the Greens moved for the House of Representatives to recognise Palestine as a state. However, the motion failed after Labor and the Coalition voted against it – the final result being five in favour and 80 against.

Mr Bandt took to X and said Labor joined Peter Dutton, “instead of the 146 other countries who have taken this crucial step for justice”.

“None of us will forget Labor’s complicity and cowardice in the face of genocide.”

On Wednesday (5 June) the Greens moved that Australia “immediately end all direct and indirect trade of military equipment with the State of Israel”. The motion proposed stopping the sale of critical components of the F-35 jet to Israel.

After the motion failed, Mr Bandt said on X that Labor and the Liberals teamed up to stop debate and silence his party.

“If Labor cared about peace, they’d stop the two-way arms trade with an Israeli regime hellbent on decimating Gaza,” said Mr Bandt.

“They’d sanction Netanyahu. They’d expel the Israeli ambassador. They’d recognise Palestine. But they don’t.”

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