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Christian Porter, Peter Van Onselen, Andrew Laming: Gemma Carey’s $200k legal row over snarky tweet

A glamorous professor has gone to ground after she sparked a legal row with a nine-word tweet about a throwback picture of Christian Porter and his university mates.

The former attorney general was seen with Ten’s political editor Peter van Onselen and his wife Ainslie, and former Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth during their days at the University of Western Australia.

The 20-year-old snap showed the long-time friends in black tie and evening wear at a formal night out, along with a second woman and several other men.

But a legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey made her nine-word comment on the pic. 

Her reply referred to the women in the photograph, which then sparked the threat of defamation actions from Mr Porter and Professor van Onselen.  

Professor Gemma Carey has gone to ground after sparking a legal row with a nine word tweet about an old picture of Christian Porter (left) and his university mates Dr Nick Coastworth (centre, left) and Professor Peter van Onselen, centre right with wife Ainslie, centre

A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey (pictured with husband Ben O'Mara) made her nine word comment on the pic

A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey (pictured with husband Ben O’Mara) made her nine word comment on the pic

Prof Carey’s reply came in the wake of Mr Porter’s resignation from Cabinet in September over his defamation lawsuit against the ABC after he identified himself as the man accused of an historic rape.

Mr Porter has vehemently denied the allegations that date back to 1988 when he was 17. 

Van Onselen, 45, came under fire at the time for supporting his long-time friend – who introduced the TV analyst to his wife – during the controversy. 

Prof Carey was hit with three legal notices in one email after making the jibe. 

The notices all arrived in the same email from the same high-profile lawyer, Rebekah Giles, who has previously represented Mr Porter, as well as Brittany Higgins and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Professor Carey was sent a legal concern notices on behalf of former attorney general Christian Porter (pictured)

A concerns notice, which often precede defamation actions, was also sent on behalf of TV political analyst Peter van Onselen (pictured)

She was sent concerns notices – which often precede defamation actions – on behalf of Mr Porter (left), Prof van Onselen (right, with wife Ainslie) and Queensland MP Andrew Laming

Christian Porter, Peter Van Onselen, Andrew Laming: Gemma Carey's $200k legal row over snarky tweet

Former Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, 43, (pictured) was not part of the legal action

Prof Carey has now deleted the tweet and apologised online to Mr Porter and Prof van Onselen for her reply about the photograph. Dr Coatsworth has not been involved in the legal row.

‘On 24th October 2021, I commented on a photograph of Peter van Onselen when he was at university with others & that comment was completely inappropriate & highly offensive and I should never have published it,’ she tweeted.

‘It has now been deleted and I unconditionally withdraw my comment and apologise to Mr van Onselen for the hurt caused to him and his wife by my conduct.’

Mr Porter received an almost identical reply.

Christian Porter, Peter Van Onselen, Andrew Laming: Gemma Carey's $200k legal row over snarky tweet

The email sent to Professor Carey with the three legal action notices from the same lawyer

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) has now deleted the tweet and apologised online to Mr Porter and Prof van Onselen for her reply about the photograph

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) has now deleted the tweet and apologised online to Mr Porter and Prof van Onselen for her reply about the photograph

She has also issued an apology to backbench Liberal MP Andrew Laming, 55, for earlier comments she made about him over a flight she once shared with him. 

Australian cricketer Jason Gillespie even became embroiled in the row after he was wrongly identified by others online as being in the pic.

He took to Twitter to deny he was the man on the far right after he was repeatedly mistaken for lookalike Australian Financial Review journalist, James Eyers, who was also a friend of the group.

Prof Carey, who is in her 30s, is a childhood sexual abuse survivor and last year published a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up.  

She is the Academic Director for UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases. 

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s (pictured here with husband Ben O'Mara), is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has written a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s (pictured here with husband Ben O’Mara), is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has written a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up

Australian of the Year Grace Tame (pictured) made the first donation of $2500 to a fighting fund set up to defend against any possible defamation action, which has now surged past $200,000

Australian of the Year Grace Tame (pictured) made the first donation of $2500 to a fighting fund set up to defend against any possible defamation action, which has now surged past $200,000

Prof Carey is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and declined to comment. She has also taken a Twitter break following the furore.

But the legal stoush has sparked a furious backlash from the public, who donated a staggering $200,000-plus in just a few days to fund her legal bill.

Friend Nina Furnell, 37, told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for ‘substantial’ legal costs. 

The GoFundMe fundraiser was started by Ms Furnell and took off after Australian of the Year Grace Tame became involved.

The Walkley Award-winning journalist worked with Ms Tame, 26, on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey.

They originally set out to raise $10,000, kickstarted with a $2500 donation from Ms Tame, but it quickly rocketed past the $200,000 mark after Ms Tame tweeted it.

‘It just snowballed,’ said Ms Furnell, from Sydney. ‘It became very clear very quickly that this issue had hit a nerve.

Walkley Award-wining journalist Nina Furnell (right) worked with Grace Tame (left) on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey

Walkley Award-wining journalist Nina Furnell (right) worked with Grace Tame (left) on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey

Friend Nina Furnell, 37, (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for 'substantial' legal costs

Friend Nina Furnell, 37, (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for ‘substantial’ legal costs

‘We want it to go to help as many people as possible but also we want to highlight the public’s frustration with defamation laws and the clear impetus for reform.

‘It is a phenomenal amount of money and I think it shows a phenomenal outpouring of sentiment on the subject.

‘Clearly Australians feel passionately about this issue.’ 

The campaign plans to use the $200,000 warchest to cover Prof Carey’s legal bill, but aims to spread the fight to help other people in a similar position.

Now lawyers and campaigners are lining up several more cases to use the fund to fight back against MPs resorting to legal action.

Defence minister Peter Dutton last month took refugee advocate Shane Bazzi to court over comments he made on Twitter.

‘When politicians start employing defamation law to silence their critics, it’s a very dangerous time for our democracy,’ said Ms Furnell.   

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s and see here with husband Ben O'Mara, is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and has taken a Twitter break following the furore

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s and see here with husband Ben O’Mara, is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and has taken a Twitter break following the furore

She added: ‘Christian Porter himself said when he was attorney general that the defamation laws are not fit for purpose.’ 

Prof van Onselen has stressed he was not part of a coordinated strike on Prof Carey and is not taking action against anyone else.  

‘We had zero to do with any coordination,’ he posted on Twitter. ‘I was not in any way shape or form associated with anyone else. 

‘I am the victim here, as is my wife, of defamatory comments now apologised for. 

‘I won’t back down from a position of no wrongdoing, that much I can assure you. I am the victim here, of Gemma Carey and her disgraceful tweets.’

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) is the Academic Director for UNSW's Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) is the Academic Director for UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases

As well as Prof Carey, and three other individuals who wish to remain anonymous, the fifth case involves the Older Women’s Network which is also facing legal action from Mr Laming over a now-deleted Facebook post last month.

‘We now want to hear from anyone else in a similar position. We will cover as many people’s legal bills as possible for as far as the money extends,’ Ms Furnell said. 

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