Tuesday, 23 June, 2020
Noted gay rights activist Garry Burns is calling for support after being hit by bankruptcy enforcement proceedings.
The Sydney-based campaigner, 63, is facing bankruptcy after former Katter’s Australia Party candidate Tess Corbett – who in 2013 compared gays to paedophiles – commenced bankruptcy enforcement action against him on 9 June.
The affair stems from a 2013 newspaper interview in which Corbett said she “didn’t want gays, lesbians or paedophiles working in my kindergarten”.
“Paedophiles will be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians, and get rights,” she told the Hamilton Spectator in her home state of Victoria during the 2013 federal election campaign.
Burns launched public interest legal action against Corbett, filing a complaint with the President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) which alleged her comments breached the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act’s Anti – Vilification Provisions.
In October 2013, Corbett was found guilty of vilifying homosexuals by the NSW Civil and Administrative Decisions Tribunal (NCAT). She was ordered to apologise in writing to Mr Burns and publish an apology to the gay community in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald pursuant to the ADA 1977 ( NSW ) message of “ tolerance & understanding. “
However, she failed to comply with the order. Mr Burns commenced contempt proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court for non compliance of a NCAT order with the case finally ending up in the High Court of Australia. Both Mr Burns and the State of NSW appealed from the Court of Appeal to the High Court.
The case – run by Mr Burns was in the public interest – was not for any personal monetary gain but for the protection of members of the LGBTQI community from public acts of unlawful homosexuality vilification.
The Hon Attorney and the state of NSW – with the support of the states of Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia – backed Mr Burns’ appeal, however the High Court overturned NCAT’s decision of 2013 with the decision published on the 18 April 2018. ( see Burns v Corbett ( 2018 ) HCA 15 ).
Mr Burns was ordered to pay $81,644.70 aggregate court costs ( after tax ) , and in October 2019 received a notice to pay the second respondent Ms Corbett’s costs within seven days. While Mr Burns has made contributions towards the court costs of Ms Corbett after receiving some assistance from the general public late last year, he does not have the capacity to immediately pay the balance in full.
The bankruptcy enforcement notice issued on 9 June, 2020 insists he must pay the full amount immediately or face bankruptcy.
“I am calling on my supporters and anyone who supports the rights of all minority Australian’s gay or straight to assist me. We are all part of the Australian family regardless of our differences, ” said Mr Burns.
“I’m very grateful to have received some generous donations late last year to help me in this matter – and with my legal action against Israel Folau – but unfortunately, it has been nowhere near enough.
“I am 63-years old and have worked for equality my entire adult life. I will not accept that my life’s work for equal rights will end up with me bankrupt.”
Donations to Mr Burns’ “fighting fund” can be made online at www.gofundme.com/garryburnsfightingfund on the GoFundMe crowdfunding platform.
In addition to calling for donations from the general public, Mr Burns said he believed the NSW Government had an obligation to assist, as NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman SC and NSW Solicitor General for the State of NSW Mr Michael Sexton SC ran the proceedings in the High Court.
“When the state of NSW intervenes in a proceeding to defend their legislation, the state usually picks up any adverse costs order,” said Mr Burns.
“In this case they haven’t, which is highly unusual.
“The High Court found that NCAT had taken on the role of a court of record when in fact they’re an administrative arm of the NSW Parliament. This means the government bears some responsibility.”
On 10 May, Mr Burns wrote to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, asking for assistance.
“It was me who settled the question of law in relation to the NCAT’s jurisdiction … yet the State of NSW expects me to pay those costs. Why?” he wrote in his letter to the Premier.
Ms Berejiklian responded by thanking Mr Burns “for taking the time to bring this matter to the government’s attention” but advised that it was a matter for the NSW Attorney General.
“As the matter you have raised falls under the responsibility of The Hon Mark Speakman SC … it is appropriate that the Attorney General considers your correspondence and I have forwarded it accordingly.
“ if you have any further enquiries about this matter, please contact the Attorney General’s office.”
However, Mr Burns had already contacted the NSW Attorney General, who refused his ex-gratia application and also denied a ‘grace payment’.
“I feel like the Premier has passed the buck to the Attorney General – who is feeding me to the hungry wolves,” said Mr Burns.
“Thanks to the actions of Ms Berejiklian and Mr Speakman, it seems I will now be bankrupted for using their state legislation to defend my community against hate and vilification.
“It appears both the Premier and Attorney General feel that is an appropriate outcome for me. “
“I would advise them to reconsider their actions because in 2020, I very much doubt the general public agrees.”
Media enquiries Garry Burns 0407 910 309