Former Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie has challenged state MP Kate Washington to repeat comments she made about him in Parliament during a debate about the changes to the state's defamation legislation.
The changes are designed to modernise existing defamation laws, better protect journalists, unclog courts and rein in skyrocketing payouts.
Ms Washington, who spoke in support of the legislation, referred to several legal proceedings that Mr MacKenzie had launched against Port Stephens residents and the late councillor Geoff Dingle in recent years.
"The changes being discussed today, if implemented, would mean that these three defamation situations would not meet the threshold test for serious harm to reputation. In this case, the plaintiff's notoriously poor character and many breaches of community standards are well documented to larger public audiences than those involved in the actual claims," Ms Washington told the Parliament.
"I am hopeful that these reforms would have resulted in those defamation actions not seeing the light of day. We should remember that for the wealthy and powerful a courtroom win is often not the goal. For the wealthy and powerful, the threat of defamation itself is frequently used to silence those who cannot afford the cost, time or stress to defend their comments or the truth."
"These plaintiffs often do not care what the judge will eventually say because they know that they can withdraw the allegation at any point. What they seek to do is to create fear in those who are prepared to stand up to them...."
Mr MacKenzie said he would sue Ms Washington if she repeated the comments while not protected by parliamentary privilege.
"I challenge her to make those statements in public. She won't because if she does she will find herself in court," he said.
"It's a load of garbage from a second-rate member in the coward's castle."
"I was on the council for 42 years and I was always the first person elected. Why was that?"
"If I was such a terrible person how come people kept voting for me?"
Ms Washington did not repeat her comments but told The Newcastle Herald she was not surprised by Mr MacKenzie's threat.
"I wouldn't have expected anything less from him," Ms Washington said.
"And that's why I was pleased to vote for these changes, because no one should have to go through what former Councillor Geoff Dingle and others have been subjected to."
The government is still consulting on when the laws will come in to effect.
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