Political belief or activity case studies

The political belief or activity case summaries are grouped into two categories: court and tribunal decisions, and conciliated outcomes.

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:

Conciliated outcomes are where the parties have reached an agreement through conciliation at the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.

Court and tribunal decisions

Former politician denied job in public hospital

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Political belief or activity
Area Applying for work
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $1,450,771.69
Year 2019

Summary: The complainant was a doctor and a former member of parliament and Assistant Minister for Health. He was sacked as Assistant Minister for Health and resigned from parliament and from the Liberal National Party. He had been critical of the government of the time, being involved in a very public dispute over employment contracts of public hospital doctors. Before going into politics he had been employed in public hospitals throughout Queensland as a physician and geriatrician, and at one stage he was the State President of the Australian Medical Association.

After leaving politics, Dr Davis applied for an advertised position as a specialist geriatric medicine senior medical officer for the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and was the only applicant for the position. The standard recruitment procedure was not followed, and Dr Davis was eventually informed that the position had been withdrawn.

The tribunal found that departure from the standard recruitment process by notifying the Board (via the chief executive) would have occurred in the case of an application from any person with a high profile, and accordingly was not less favourable treatment of Dr Davis.

However, the tribunal found that the decision of the CEO to cease the recruitment process and not appoint the complainant amounted to less favourable treatment of him. An inference that the decision was made because of the complainant’s political belief or activity was open on the evidence, and there was no innocent explanation for the decision.

As a consequence of the discrimination, the complainant said he lost dignity, lost his standing in the profession, and lost self-esteem as he had been reduced from a medical director of a major academic clinical department to a clinician incapable of securing a public hospital position. He suffered considerable distress and isolated himself, which resulted in his not applying for further public hospital clinical jobs. He had minimal opportunity to practice his professional skills or engage in professional development that is integral with public hospital clinical practice.

The tribunal found that the discrimination caused the complainant to change from a confident, high achieving medical professional capable of taking responsibility for the management and direction of an entire department of a major public hospital to an anxious, despondent, socially isolated person who demonstrates a lack of purpose, self-worth and drive. The tribunal found the deleterious impact had been long lasting and was ongoing.

Although the complainant did not rely on medical evidence that he sustained a diagnosed psychological disorder, the tribunal found that the impact on his functioning caused by the discrimination is not dissimilar to, and has had serious and debilitating consequences in common with the effects of a diagnosed psychological disorder. The tribunal adopted the reasoning used in Green v State of Queensland as to assessment of damages and considered that in the absence of psychological injury the tribunal should consider the persuasive influence of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Richardson v Oracle. The tribunal considered the impacts of contraventions and awards of damages in the QCAT cases of Green, STU, and Carey, and concluded that the impact on Mr Green and STU were significantly greater than the impact on Dr Davis. The tribunal awarded damages totalling $1,450,771.69 comprised of:

General damages: $50,000.00
Interest on general damages: $4,410.00
Past economic loss: $830,824.83
Lost superannuation: $78,928.35
Interest on past economic & super: $78,784.62
Future economic loss: $407,823.89

As the people responsible for the decision were no longer with the health service, the tribunal found there was no utility in directing executive level officers to undergo education in anti-discrimination, and that is was not warranted on the facts available to the tribunal.

Davis v Metro North Hospital and Health Service & Ors [2019] QCAT 18 (31 January 2019)

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Political party excluded from meeting at hotel

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Political belief or activity
Area Providing goods or services
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $2,500
Year 2017

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 outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Political belief or activity, and
Association
Area Work
Outcome details Complaint upheld
Compensation $368,033.06
Year 2011

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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