18 Feb 2014

Defamation decision by Tuesday - Craig

3:58 pm on 18 February 2014

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says he will make a decision on Tuesday about whether to go ahead with steps to sue the Green Party co-leader Russel Norman over comments about Mr Craig's views on gays and women.

Dr Norman says he stands by what he said at the Big Gay Out in Auckland earlier in February that Mr Craig thinks a woman's place is in the kitchen and a gay man's place is in the closet.

"I'm going to stand my ground. It's very important in a democracy that politicians can speak their mind in a responsible way. I believe that is exactly what I've done, and so we will stand our ground."

Dr Norman says he will defend his comments in court if need be.

Colin Craig.


Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo: RNZ

Mr Craig told Morning Report it's time to raise the level of political debate.

"I don't see why we should have one standard for the public of New Zealand that suddenly politicians are exempt from. So look, he's crossed the line and he won't apologise. We'll take the next step."

Colin Craig says his party picks its battles and has so far got about eight retractions for statements it was disputing.

Mr Craig's lawyers had given Dr Norman a deadline of Friday to apologise and issue a retraction, or be sued for defamation.

Dr Norman said if Mr Craig wanted to enter Parliament, he needed to accept the criticism that will come his way, because that was just part of robust political debate in a democracy.

A University of Canterbury law professor, Ursula Cheer, says the comments may be defamatory if they suggest Mr Craig is homophobic or sexist, but he will not win a court case if Dr Norman can establish his comments are true.

Professor Cheer also says there is a political discussion defence.

"It is recognised by the law that freedom of expression is very important, especially in relation to things like elections. The electors have to know where the parties stand and politicians are expected probably to be a bit more robust than others."