Tess Corbett. Photo: Hamilton Spectator
A former candidate from Bob Katter's Australia Party who likened gays and lesbians to paedophiles during an interview on the campaign trail has been found to have engaged in homosexual vilification and ordered to publish a public apology in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tess Corbett was Bob Katter's candidate for the Victorian seat of Wannon in the federal election until she stood down in January after telling her local paper "I don't want gays, lesbians or paedophiles working in my kindergarten".
"If you don't like it, go to another kindergarten," Ms Corbett told the Hamilton Spectator.
When asked if she considered homosexuals to be in the same category as paedophiles, Ms 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.
The comments were republished in major newspapers across the country, accompanied by expressions of shock and disgust by politicians such as Penny Wong who tweeted "Bigotry is not morality" in reply.
Ms Corbett stood down soon after the furore erupted, but gay rights activist Gary Burns took the matter to the Anti-Discrimination Board, claiming that her comments incited hatred.
On Tuesday, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal upheld Mr Burns' claim.
It ordered Ms Corbett to publish an apology in the Sydney Morning Herald in a prominent position at her own expense and to apologise to Mr Burns in writing.
She was also ordered to refrain from pernicious public behaviour that breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act and its anti-vilification provisions.
"For highly distressing reasons, the Australian public at the present day is being made particularly aware of the serious and long-lasting psychological damage suffered by victims of paedophilia," the tribunal's deputy president Michael Chesterton said in his written decision.
"At any time, and especially at this time, any pronouncement that 'brackets' . . . homosexual people with paedophiles is capable of . . . urging [people] to treat homosexuals as deserving to be hated or to be regarded with serious contempt.
"Ms Corbett's claims . . . do not merely offend or insult: they incite these negative reactions."
Mr Burns said the decision was a "reminder to people in powerful positions . . . that they have responsibilities".
"Ms Corbett had asked the people in Wannon in Victoria to elect her as their federal representative . . . She shouldn't be using that powerful position to suggest people like me of a homosexual characteristic are a threat to small children," he said.