By MATT NEAL – The Standard
Aug. 14, 2014, 11:05 a.m.
FORMER Wannon political candidate and Lake Bolac grandmother Tess Corbett will have to make a public apology for her comments about homosexuals after her appeal was dismissed by a New South Wales tribunal.
Ms Corbett’s comments to the Hamilton Spectator during the 2013 election campaign triggered outrage across the country, sparking legal action from anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns.
After a hearing at the former NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, now the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), on October 3 last year, Ms Corbett was found guilty of vilifying homosexuals on three occasions when she likened gays to paedophiles in an interview.
Ms Corbett chose not to attend that hearing and later appealed on the grounds that she had not been “given an opportunity to argue her case” and that the tribunal had not “(turned) its mind to the High Court authorities on the implied right to freedom of political communication”, according to NCAT’s appeal finding.
“The appeal is dismissed because the tribunal correctly construed the homosexual vilification provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act and was not required to refer to the implied right under the Constitution to freedom of political communication,” NCAT found.
“There is no justification for extending the appeal to the merits of the Tribunal’s decision because, among other things, Ms Corbett had an opportunity to put her case at first instance and chose not to do so.”
Ms Corbett was ordered to publish an apology in the Sydney Morning Herald and write a personal letter of apology to Mr Burns.
That penalty was reinstated with the appeal’s dismissal.
Mr Burns said the result was “very important”.
He said he had expected the appeal to be dismissed but added that “you never know in these situations”.
Ms Corbett had told the Hamilton Spectator that she didn’t want “gays, lesbians or paedophiles working in my kindergarten” and when asked if she considered homosexuals to be in the same category as paedophiles, she replied “yes”.
“Paedophiles will be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians and get rights, ” Ms Corbett told the Spectator.
The comments were republished on websites around the country, opening Ms Corbett up to legal action in NSW where Mr Burns was able to take the matter to NCAT.
Mr Burns said he had done so because Ms Corbett’s “statements incited hatred towards or incited serious contempt or incited serious ridicule of homosexual people on the ground of their homosexuality and that act was unlawful”.