NSW’s long-time Christian crusader Fred Nile has offered an impassioned defence of Alex Greenwich, insisting he wants the openly gay Sydney MP to know he is loved and does not deserve to be subjected to personal attacks based on his sexuality.
Nile, who has been highly critical of LGBTQ policies over many decades, including same-sex marriage, contacted Greenwich this week to offer his full support after Mark Latham’s homophobic slurs against the independent MP.
The former Christian Democrat MP, who ended his 40-year state political career in March, and his wife Silvana called Greenwich to tell him “he is loved” and does not deserve to be subjected to a “character assassination”.
“I just felt that he was being unfairly treated in the way Mark Latham was attacking him and I wanted him to know that someone does have sympathy for him and that’s me,” Nile said.
Silvana said leadership in politics needed to be about brotherly love because “God said love thy neighbour as you love yourself, and your neighbour could be a Muslim, a member of the LGBTQ community or a Christian”.
“We have different parties and different belief systems and everyone has a right to be heard, but it should be done by debate, not by character assassination,” Silvana said.
The Niles join a string of people who have condemned Latham for a highly graphic and offensive homophobic comment directed at Greenwich, including One Nation figurehead Pauline Hanson, Premier Chris Minns and Opposition Leader Mark Speakman.
Hanson described Latham’s comments as disgusting, and directed him to apologise to voters. Latham ignored her and said she did not understand what it was like to be a straight man.
Greenwich said he was “extremely touched” to receive a phone call of support from the Niles.
“They made it clear that Mr Latham’s views, words, and actions were not representative of the faith communities they have worked with,” Greenwich said.
“Reverend Nile and I passionately disagree on a number of issues, but we keep our disputes to policy ones and do not engage in the personal and sexualised attacks that Mr Latham does.”
In his final act in parliament last year, Nile forged an unlikely alliance with Greenwich based on a shared passion for Indigenous rights and reconciliation. The pair introduced new laws to reform the protection of Indigenous culture and heritage in NSW.
Latham has refused to apologise for his comment, prompting Greenwich to make a complaint to NSW Police which is under investigation.
As well as his police statement, Greenwich has lodged a complaint of homosexual vilification with Anti-Discrimination NSW and his lawyers have told Latham that defamation proceedings will begin if he does not apologise for his comments.
Greenwich’s legal assault could impact Latham’s ability to remain in parliament if he is charged with “using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence”, the criminal offence cited by Greenwich in his formal complaint to Police Commissioner Karen Webb.
That offence carries a potential five-year jail term and, under the NSW Constitution, a member of parliament from either house can be disqualified from office if convicted “of an offence for life or for a term of 5 years or more”.
Latham gave his first interview since the comments on radio host Chris Smith’s online show last week, where he doubled down on his comments about Greenwich and refused to apologise. He also disputed that Hanson had tried to contact him.
The One Nation NSW leader told Smith that being labelled a “disgusting human being is as extreme as you can get” and insisted his views on homosexuality were widely held.
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