Greens NSW has issued a rare public rebuke to one of its own elected members amid revelations the MP has directed multiple legal threats against party members, despite publicly calling for defamation laws to be reformed so that politicians can’t abuse them.
In 2015, Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham and radio shock-jock Alan Jones were sued by then Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner for comments they made in the course of anti-coal seam gas campaigning.
The lawsuit was eventually dropped, prompting Mr Buckingham to publicly call for sweeping changes to defamation laws.
“Australia is a robust democracy and criticism of public representatives is an important part of our democratic system. There should be a much higher bar set for politicians to sue for defamation, such as what exists in the United States,” he said at the time.
But since then, Mr Buckingham has issued legal threats against at least four current or former members of his own party, three of which are centred around recent allegations that Mr Buckingham sexually assaulted a former Greens staffer, Ella Buckland in 2011.
One of those being sued is Tom Raue, the Greens NSW candidate for the seat of Summer Hill. It appears to be unprecedented in NSW political history for a member of a political party to be suing colleagues in the shadow of an upcoming state election.
The fourth legal threat – issued by Mr Buckingham just over a year after his public criticisms of defamation laws – was against a teenager who described Mr Buckingham as a “massive fucking hypocrite” in a closed Facebook forum with less than 600 members.
The young woman, Vanamali Hermans, aged 18 at the time, was a Young Greens member in December 2016 when she posted the comments. She was caring for her gravely ill mother when she received the threats, and left the party soon after.
Overnight, Greens NSW co-convenors Sylvia Hale and Rochelle Flood told New Matilda that all members of the Greens NSW were expected to adhere to the Greens’ convention around ‘slap suits’, a reference to the use of defamation laws to silence critics.
“We are perturbed that a Greens member would seek to take legal action against another member,” Ms Flood and Ms Hale wrote in a joint statement. “The Greens have a long history of campaigning against slap suits whose purpose is to intimidate.
“It is inappropriate for people of wealth and influence to use the courts to silence and intimidate those who do not have the same resources or platform.
“The Greens stand by this policy. We expect our members to uphold and comply with the same standards that we demand of others.”
Mr Buckingham’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
New Matilda’s investigation into the sexual assault allegations raised by Ms Buckland is ongoing.
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