After more than four years of legal hell the New South Wales Attorney General, Mark Speakman, has admitted that there is a problem with the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB). From The Australian today:
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has said the “door is never closed to reform” of anti-discrimination laws after it emerged one person was responsible for lodging more than 100 complaints that were then referred to the state’s administrative tribunal.
Serial litigant Garry Burns pursues people who make homophobic comments in public, primarily by complaining to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
The Australian revealed his one-man legal crusade has resulted in the bankrupting — and potential jailing — of a former cabbie whose family says is brain damaged, and taken up countless court hours at significant cost to taxpayers, prompting calls to overhaul the law.
Mr Burns has lodged 77 complaints about former Newcastle cab driver John Sunol, leading to about 24 tribunal or court matters and about 29 days of hearings.
Mr Sunol suffered a serious brain injury in 1978, and his family says he does not properly understand the consequences of his actions. He faces a federal criminal charge and a possible charge of contempt for failing to abide by tribunal rulings.
Mr Burns has also lodged 36 ADB complaints about conservative Christian blogger Bernard Gaynor, leading to 18 NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal cases, three NSW Local Court cases and litigation in the NSW Supreme Court, NSW Court of Appeal and High Court.
The litigation has cost Mr Gaynor, a former army officer and father of eight, more than $200,000 and forced him to sell his house.
This follows reporting on the front page of The Weekend Australian on Saturday:
Burns was back in court on Thursday, in a defamation matter involving one of his key targets: former army officer and conservative Christian blogger Bernard Gaynor, who lives in Brisbane. Gaynor, a father of eight, says Burns’s action has cost him “well over $200,000” in legal fees and forced him to sell his house.
It is hard to know how many complaints Burns has filed over the years, or how many have in turn been referred by the ADB to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Burns says he lodged his first complaint in 2002, but does not keep a record, while the ADB says it “cannot comment on any aspect of its statutory complaint-handling functions”.
Gaynor, however, has been keeping a tally. He says he has been the subject of 36 ADB complaints by Burns, leading to 18 NCAT cases and litigation in the NSW Supreme Court, NSW Court of Appeal and High Court — requiring about 26 trips to Sydney. He has also had three matters referred to the NSW Local Court and is expecting another seven — although Burns says he will discontinue some of these.
He has also now been sued by Burns for defamation over a Facebook comment posted by a third party, which the judge on Thursday warned was a “very difficult case” for Burns to win. But that is of little comfort to Gaynor. “I am sucked into this black hole at the moment,” Gaynor says. “It has had a terrible impact on our lives, it has destroyed us financially and put enormous stress on our family. There is no escape, even when you win in the High Court.”
There is no cost to file a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board, and no cost to have a complaint referred to NCAT. There are also usually no costs awarded against complainants if they lose in the tribunal.
On the other hand, there is a potential upside for complainants, who can be awarded up to $100,000 in compensation — a situation Gaynor says creates a potential “gravy train”.
Gaynor points to figures from 2014-15, when he says he was the subject of about 26 Burns complaints. Analysis of NCAT decisions and Burns’s website reveals complaints against five other people, he says, meaning Burns was responsible for more than half the 48 homosexual vilification and victimisation complaints to the ADB that year. Burns has at least 12 court matters listed this month…
The ADB cannot be reformed. It is a parasitical organisation of activists that believes it is above and beyond the reach of law.
The fact that the ADB has referred further complaints to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal even after the High Court unanimously upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that it had no power to do so is proof of that.
This scandal was not an accident. It was always going to occur.
Please keep the pressure up and sign the petition below to the Attorney General calling for an inquiry into the conduct of the ADB.
It will be an important first step in a long process that we must undertake to restore freedom in Australia.