Australia: QUT student sues MP Terri Butler over ‘racist smear’

Australia: QUT student sues MP Terri Butler over ‘racist smear’, by Hedley Thomas.

The Labor parliamentarian who smeared a Queensland University of Technology student as a racist and perjurer on the ABC’s Q&A program got a formal response yesterday — a defamation action filed in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Terri Butler, the federal member for the inner-Brisbane seat of Griffith, will have until just before Christmas to file her defence to the proceedings launched yesterday by QUT student Calum Thwaites. …

On Monday night Ms Butler, a graduate of QUT and a former industrial lawyer for class-action law firm Maurice Blackburn, suggested to a Q&A audience of up to one million viewers that Mr Thwaites had used the word “niggers’’ in a Facebook post in late May 2013.

Mr Thwaites has repeatedly ­denied having written the post, which he said came from a false Facebook account bearing his name.

Earlier this month, Federal Circuit Court judge Michael ­Jarrett dismissed a $250,000 racial hatred case brought under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by QUT staff member Cindy Prior against Mr Thwaites and other students.

Judge Jarrett accepted that Mr Thwaites had not written the post, ruling there was no evidence to the contrary. Mr Thwaites had complained to Facebook about the false social media profile, set up by another student as a prank. …

The statement of claim says her assertions would cause great harm to Mr Thwaites as he intended to be a lawyer, having quit a teaching degree over fears students and their parents would Google his name and wrongly perceive him as racist. Ms Butler has not offered Mr Thwaites an apology.

Fighting over the use of a word the PC crew now disapprove of, in an allegedly fake post on Facebook, and a smear on the ABC’s Q&A,by a Labor member who was once a lawyer with Maurice Blackburn. How typical.