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Political belief or activity case studies

The political belief or activity case summaries on this page are tribunal decisions.

Court and tribunal decisions are made after all the evidence is heard, including details of loss and damage. The full text of court and tribunal decisions is available from:

Political party excluded from meeting at hotel

Type of outcomeQueensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
AttributePolitical belief or activity
AreaProviding goods or services
OutcomeComplaint upheld

Summary: Ms Vuga is the founder member and President of the Love Australia or Leave party and she wanted to hold a meeting in Hervey Bay.  A party member arranged for attendees to meet for drinks at the Beach House Hotel before going to a meeting elsewhere, the location for which would be disclosed at the drinks.

The party prepared a flyer which was widely distributed, including in the hotel.  When the hotel manager saw the flyer the day before the intended drinks and meeting, he made some enquiries and then contacted Ms Vuga.  He had concerns about the possible size of the gathering for drinks in the main bar and the impact on other patrons.  He told Ms Vuga she could not have the meet for drinks at the hotel, and the hotel did not want to be associated with the party. The manager hired security for the intended event and people wearing tee shirts with Love Australia or Leave printed on them were denied entry to the hotel.

The tribunal found there were two substantial reasons why the manager decided not to allow the meet for drinks to take place – one was the impracticality of the arrangements and the way the party had organised them, and the other was the dislike of Ms Vuga’s political views and disagreement with those of the party.

Discrimination on the basis of an attribute happens if the attribute is a substantial reason for the less favourable treatment.

It was direct discrimination when the hotel manager did not permit the gathering at the hotel and when he told Ms Vuga that the hotel did not want anything to do with the party and it was not welcome at the hotel.

The tribunal found that the safety of hotel staff was not a substantial reason for the decision not to allow the gathering to take place, and the tribunal was not satisfied that the decision was reasonably necessary to protect the safety of the staff.

Ms Vuga was awarded damages of $2,500 for the offence she felt when told of the hotel’s decision, that it wanted nothing to do with her party, and that the party was not welcome at the hotel.

Vuga v Persal & Co. Trading Pty Ltd [2017] QCAT 368  (31 October 2017)

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Dismissal because of political belief or activity

Type of outcomeQueensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
AttributePolitical belief or activity, and
Outcome detailsComplaint upheld

Summary: This was a complaint of discrimination on the basis of political belief or activity, and association with a person with the attribute of political belief or activity, against four local government councillors and the Cairns Regional Council. The complainant's contract of employment was terminated, with no reason being given for termination.

The four individual respondents were councillors of the Douglas Shire Council before it became part of the new Cairns Regional Council in March 2008. The Cairns Regional Council inherited the liabilities of the Douglas Shire Council upon the amalgamation.

The complaint was made out against the Council but dismissed against the individuals because the Local Government Act protects councillors acting in their capacity as elected representatives, except in the case of dishonesty or negligence.

The complainant was engaged by the Council as a general manager for community and corporate services. From 2006 to 2008 the Council was divided by disputes about environmental issues, and was so dysfunctional that after a series of investigations, the local government minister proposed dissolving it. The disputes were largely between the Mayor on one side and the four individual respondents and the Council CEO on the other. The Mayor was supported by Roison Allen, an environmental activist who regularly attacked the four in the local press and council chambers. The complainant was in a de facto relationship with Ms Allen at the time.

During the final term of the Council, the Mayor was critical of the performance of the CEO and eventually the CEO's employment was terminated, and was not reinstated despite efforts by the four to do so.

At a meeting held shortly before the council amalgamation, and while the complainant was on sick leave, the four respondents voted in favour of terminating the complainant's contract, and this was done. The issue of the termination had not been on the agenda and no reasons were given for the termination.

The tribunal found on the evidence that the complainant's contract was terminated 'as an act of political retribution' either as 'political payback against a political opponent', or because of the complainant's association with Ms Allen. Although the respondents had filed documents in the tribunal alleging there were issues with the complainant's performance, they did not give evidence at the hearing.

The tribunal also found that although the contract allowed for termination for any reason on six months' notice (or payment in lieu), this did not allow termination for a discriminatory reason. In effect, parties cannot contract out of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 .

Total damages of $368,033.06 was awarded to Mr Carey, which included amounts for past and future economic loss, loss of opportunity, general damage of $30,000 and medical expenses.

Carey v Cairns Regional Council [2011] QCAT 26, 21 January 2011

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