FORMER Wannon political hopeful Tess Corbett has been ordered to make a public apology by a New South Wales legal tribunal over comments she made in January comparing gays to paedophiles.
The decision, made under the state’s anti-discrimination laws, has found that Ms Corbett’s remarks equating homosexuality with paedophiles “incited hatred” towards the gay community.
Ms Corbett’s comments in January that gay and lesbian people were the same “moral issues” and in the same “category” as paedophiles caused widespread outrage, leading to the candidate to withdraw from the Katter party.
The Equal Opportunity Division of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has given Ms Corbett 28 days to pay for an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald and has prepared the wording to say “I acknowledge that the words that I used vilified homosexual people”.
The Lake Bolac grandmother has been pursued by Sydney-based gay rights campaigner Gary Burns for the comments that appeared in various newspapers.
Mr Burns told The Standard yesterday he was “ecstatic” with the outcome and hoped it would send a message to others seeking high office that they were accountable to the country’s anti-discrimination and equal opportunity commissions.
“Hopefully she’ll be reflecting on the damage she has caused,” Mr Burns said. “It sends a clear message to anyone seeking high office that if you incite hatred … you won’t get away with it.”
Attempts to reach Ms Corbett for comment were met with disconnected phone numbers.
Mr Burns said he had not sought financial damages from Ms Corbett, saying: “I’m not about punishing people, I just want people to understand their responsibilities.”
He said Ms Corbett would be in contempt of court if she did not comply with the decision, that includes a personal apology to the activist.
Ms Corbett did not appear at the hearing earlier this month and has not responded to letters from the board informing her of the anti-discrimination application that was made on January 31.
Receipts from registered post signed by Ms Corbett indicated that she was aware of the impending hearing, the tribunal’s decision said.
After withdrawing as a candidate for the Katter Party, Ms Corbett was poached by the Australian Christians to stand as their candidate in the Wannon electorate. She stood by her remarks during the campaign but accused the media of misquoting her.
The Standard was unable to seek comment from Ms Corbett through the Australian Christians.
Melbourne University anti-discrimination expert Associate Professor Beth Gaze said such a challenge could have been “more difficult” in Victoria, which does not have a specific homosexual vilification law.
Mr Burns has also successfully launched similar actions against broadcaster John Laws in 2004, which resulted in an on-air apology from the veteran broadcaster and station 2UE.