Labour’s deputy leader David Parker has offered to defend Green Party co-leader Russel Norman against defamation action launched by Colin Craig.
The Conservative Party leader is demanding a retraction and apology from Norman. It is understood the complaint relates to Norman suggesting at Auckland’s Big Day Out that Mr Craig thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen and a gay man’s in the closet.
Craig said the claims were ‘‘defamatory, sexist, derogatory and offensive’’ and ‘‘just wrong’’.
‘‘It is a defamatory thing and I would consider that somebody who thinks those sorts of things would have a lower standing in the eyes of the public… he’s crossed the line.’’
Norman has refused to resile from his comments, however, saying Craig’s views were ‘‘offensive’’.
‘‘Colin Craig’s approach to politics of using expensive lawyers to try to tell other politicians what they can and cannot say is not the best way that we should do politics in New Zealand,’’ he said.
‘‘It has a chilling effect on free speech if you have to pass everything in front of a defamation lawyer before you can say it.’’
His characterisation of Craig’s comments was a ‘‘metaphor’’ to illustrate his views, he said.
‘‘I was not saying Mr Craig is a bad person, I don’t believe Mr Craig is a bad person, but I do strenuously disagree with his views about gay New Zealanders and about women New Zealanders.’’
Craig’s past comments about the promiscuity of New Zealand women and gay relationships not being not normal ‘‘belong in 1950s New Zealand’’, he said.
Parker, a lawyer and former attorney-general, defended Dr Norman’s claim as ‘‘absolutely fair comment’’.
‘‘The idea politicians can’t make value judgments is wrong and if Colin Craig is so silly as to think he can repress public criticisms of his extreme positions he is both wrong in law and principle and I will be one of many lawyers to offer to represent him for free in court. It’s a nonsense.’’
Prime Minister John Key said legal action in those kinds of circumstances was often a "waste of time''.
"If I started taking legal action against everyone who’d said bad things about me, my lawyers would be busy too,'' he said.
It’s not the first time Craig has taken the legal route over statements made about him.
Early last year he launched a defamation suit against Ben Uffindell, publisher of the satirical news site The Civilian.
The site had published a story about floods in Nelson, Waikato and Bay of Plenty being caused by the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill.
In December, Television New Zealand was required by the Broadcasting Standards Authority to issue an on air apology for an item about him, which ran on Seven Sharp.
Craig’s lawyer John MacKay has written to Norman saying the comments were defamatory as it "harms his reputation to say that he holds such sexist, derogatory and offensive views about women and gay men''.
"Neither the context of an election year, nor the occasion of the Big Gay Out provide you with a licence to say anything you like about Mr Craig,'' the letter said.
He demanded an apology and retraction to an audience similar in size to the one that heard Dr Norman’s original comments, which were also broadcast on TV.
Further action could be taken if no such apology and retraction was made, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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