Federal Labor MP Terri Butler has settled a defamation suit with a Queensland university student, agreeing to a “modest payout” over comments she made on the ABC’s Q&A program.
- Calum Thwaites was seeking $150,000 in damages
- Ms Butler issued public apology, saying there was no suggestion Mr Thwaites was a bigot or racist
- Exact payout figure unknown
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) law student Calum Thwaites was taking action against Ms Butler after she suggested on national television he had used the word “niggers” in a 2013 Facebook post about an Indigenous-only computer lab.
Mr Thwaites has always maintained he was not responsible for the Facebook post where the phrase “ITT niggers” was repeatedly used.
The comments were in reference to a case in which Mr Thwaites and two fellow students were accused of racial vilification against Indigenous administration officer Cynthia Prior.
The case was made under section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, but was struck out in November. That decision has been appealed by Ms Prior.
Mr Thwaites was seeking $150,000 in damages for defamation, alleging the Griffith MP implied he was a racist, bigot and perjurer.
Ms Butler issued a public apology to Mr Thwaites on her website on Thursday.
She said she and Mr Thwaites had agreed to a “modest payment” to contribute to his legal costs.
Ms Butler acknowledged evidence given in court that showed Mr Thwaites was not the author of the Facebook post.
“Your legal representative, Mr Morris QC, has described you as a victim of malicious identity theft or a prank, which I accept,” Ms Butler said.
“There should be no suggestion that you were responsible for the Facebook post, or that your denial was anything other than the truth. Equally, there should be no suggestion that you are racist, or bigoted.
“I offer you my unreserved apology for enabling those meanings about you to be conveyed, and for the distress and damage to your reputation caused as a consequence.”
The exact payout figure is unknown at this stage.
Ms Butler has been contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, the Federal Court in Brisbane this morning heard an appeal in Ms Prior’s racial discrimination case against the three students.
Justice John Dowsett reserved his decision to a later date yet to be fixed.