Corbett appeal dismissed

Pages from HS-20140816



THE NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has dismissed an appeal by former Katter’s Australian Party Wannon candidate, Therese Corbett, against a NSW Anti-Discrimination Board judgement that she vilified homosexuals.

Sydney gay activist, Garry Burns, took legal action against Ms Corbett after her comments to The Spectator equating homosexuality with paedophilia were published by NSW media outlets.

The NCAT handed down its decision on October 15, 2013, finding Ms Corbett had vilified homosexuals.

 The Tribunal ordered her to apologise to the public via an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, an order that still stands due to the appeal’s dismissal.  

Ms Corbett appealed the judgement one month later and the decision to dismiss her appeal was published on Thursday morning.

The Tribunal referred to NSW anti-discrimination laws which state “It is unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the homosexuality of the person or members of the group”.

Mr Burns told The Spectator on Thursday that the appeal dismissal was “an important victory, not just for me but for tolerance of homosexuals and other minorities”.

“There’s a short bald white man in Canberra who is trying to tell people that it’s OK to be a bigot,” he said.

“Well, I say that it’s not OK to be a bigot- it’s not ok to incite hatred, contempt or ridicule against people because they are homosexual.

“This judgment was for NSW but it sends a message to the whole of Australia that there are serious consequences for vilification.”

Mr Burns said he would “be fair” and give Ms Corbett three weeks to “get the money together” to buy an ad in the SMH newspaper.

“It won’t be cheap,” he said.

“I made the decision not to apply for my legal costs for the case to date but if I have to take Ms Corbett to the Supreme Court to enforce the NCAT judgment, I will consider recovering costs for that.”

Mr Burns told The Spectator back in January 2013 that he was prepared to abandon his plan to sue her if she apologised for her remarks and withdrew them.

Ms Corbett appealed the vilification finding on the basis that her interview with The Spectator in Victoria was not a “public act” for the purposes of NSW law and she had a right to express her religious and political views without sanction.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Ms Corbett’s lawyer argued in May that bracketing homosexuality with “other notorious kinds of immoral conduct” was a persuasive strategy used by some of the “greatest contributors to Western civilisation’s philosophical understanding”.

The Tribunal did not find in favour of applying a religious exemption or invoking the Australian Constitution’s implied right to freedom of political communication.

The appeal decision upheld the original judgment’s ruling on the matter of geographical jurisdiction.

“If the only instance of communication of Ms Corbett’s statements to the public had been in the article appearing on 22 January 2013 in the Hamilton Spectator, the Tribunal would not, we believe, have had jurisdiction to deal with this matter,” the decision stated.

“This is because the relevant ‘public act’ would have been committed wholly in Victoria.

“But all of the instances of republication that we have outlined involved communication to the public in New South Wales.”

The appeal decision was also critical of how Ms Corbett had presented her case in the prior legal action and in the appeal.

“The fact that Ms Corbett did not attend the hearing (even taking into account the reasons for non-attendance) does not justify allowing her to run her case for the first time on appeal,” the decision stated.

The Spectator published Ms Corbett’s first interview as a candidate in the 2013 Federal Election.

 During the interview Ms Corbett was asked if religious organisations should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws proposed by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“You should be able to discriminate,” she said in the 2013 interview.

“I don’t want gays, lesbians or paedophiles to be working in my kindergarten.

“If you don’t like it, go to another kindergarten.”

When asked if she considered homosexuals to be in the same category as paedophiles, Mrs Corbett replied “yes”.

“Paedophiles will be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians and get rights,” she said in that interview.

National media picked up on Ms Corbett’s comments and KAP founder Bob Katter told journalists in Melbourne that the remarks were “stupid” and “not what the party was about”.

Just days after The Spectator published the interview and 15 hours after it was picked up by national media, Mrs Corbett resigned as a candidate.

Following her resignation as a KAP candidate, Ms Corbett ran for Wannon on behalf of the Australian Christians Party and secured 1.32 per cent of the primary vote.

The Spectator contacted Ms Corbett’s lawyer but he did not respond to a request for comment on the appeal by publication deadline.

Author: Garry Burns

Gary Burns is an Australian anti-discrimination campaigner. He successfully tested the homosexual vilification provisions of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 with a complaint of personal homosexual vilification against broadcaster John Laws and Sydney radio station 2UE that concluded in his favour in 2002.[1] Burns went on to front public interest cases against high profile figures and media establishments for unlawful homosexual vilification.

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