ANNE MATHER MERCURY
THE State Government has been urged to hold accountable a man who is refusing to apologise for distributing pamphlets opposing homosexuality.
Launceston man James William Durston was found to have breached the Anti-Discrimination Act by distributing leaflets called “Homosexual Stats”.
The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ordered he publicly apologise because the pamphlets “humiliated, insulted and ridiculed homosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation”.
But Mr Durston has refused to apologise and threatened to appeal the matter in the High Court of Australia if further action is taken against him.
“I won’t be apologising … the ruling is unlawful,” he said yesterday.
Gay rights advocate Rodney Croome has called on the Government to step in and enforce last month’s ruling by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.
“To maintain confidence in the Anti-Discrimination Act, and to ensure Tasmania is a safe and inclusive society, the Tasmanian Government must do everything it can to uphold the ruling against Mr Durston,” Mr Croome said.
“Mr Durston’s flippant attitude to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal sends a message to other potential perpetrators that can ignore the Tribunal’s findings.”
The State Government stood at arm’s length from the matter yesterday, declining to comment because the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal is an independent statutory body.
However, Mr Durston is liable to pay a fine of up to $1540 if he refuses to adhere to the tribunal’s ruling within a week.
Under the ruling, he was ordered to make a public apology and retraction through a notice in the Mercury newspaper.
Mr Durston said he believed the tribunal was curbing free speech.
“It is instilling fear through intimidation tactics to Tasmanian people if they dare to speak out,” he said.
In a submission to the tribunal following the ruling, he called the decision “a gross perversion of justice in ignorance of both fact and law”.
In the ruling, tribunal member Margaret Otlowski agreed with the views of the man who took the case against the leaflet, senior Tasmanian public servant Robert Williams.
Mr Williams made a complaint against “Threewisemonkeys”, the name the pamphlets were produced under.
Mr Durston conceded in the tribunal that he was the person responsible for the dissemination of the pamphlets and represented “Threewisemonkeys”.
Mr Williams said yesterday he was disappointed Mr Durston thought he was above the law.
“In such a serious matter as this, where the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has said Mr Durston broke the law, it saddens me that he won’t accept the umpire’s ruling,” Mr Williams said.
“Actions such as Mr Durston publishing of this hateful flyer cause much damage in our community and are the very reason laws like the Anti-Discrimination Act exist.”