Leaders of lesbian and gay community organisations have responded with dismay to the resignation of NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president, Chris Puplick.
Puplick tendered his resignation from the ADB and as NSW Privacy Commissioner on Friday afternoon, after several media reports accused him of a conflict of interest in a gay harassment case considered by the ADB in 2000. The reports were based largely on email correspondence between Puplick and the complainant in the case -“ with suggestions that the two enjoyed a close friendship.
Although Puplick was unavailable for comment this week, he rejected the accusations in his resignation letter.
I reject utterly any implication that I acted improperly in this case, he stated. An email sent by me, which I admit should not have been sent in the terms it was, has been seriously misconstrued -“ a number of false implications have been read into it -“ these matters are now in the hands of my personal solicitor. Nevertheless I repeat my categorical denial of improper or unfair treatment of this case.
The conflict of interest accusations came on the heels of another round of criticism for an ADB report Puplick commissioned on racism in the media.
The report, Race For The Headlines, which was launched during the state election campaign, was criticised by several media outlets for perceived bias. The report also raised the ire of premier Bob Carr, who described it in parliament on Thursday as ill-informed, inflammatory and tendentious.
In his resignation letter, Puplick said the media racism report had been widely misrepresented and misinterpreted.
The Premier himself has been critical of the work of the Board and I believe it is not possible for the Board to be an effective advocate for human rights in New South Wales in the absence of his personal support, Puplick wrote.
ACON president Adrian Lovney said while he and Puplick had had differences of opinion over the years, I think the way he appears to have been hunted down by the tabloid press is unfortunate -“ and a warning to all of us about the power held by those forces.
It’s ironic and sad that the man entrusted with protecting our community against victimisation and ridicule based on sexuality or perceived sexuality has been exposed to much the same thing, Lovney said.
The executive officer of the AIDS Trust of Australia, Terry Trethowan, acknowledged Puplick’s tremendous contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Chris’s work in HIV/AIDS at the national level through the AIDS Trust and ANCAHRD [the Australian National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases] has been extraordinary, Trethowan said. When public figures are criticised, it’s important not to lose sight of their many achievements.
Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rob Mc-Grory said Puplick has always been a strong advocate for the need for anti-discrimination provisions in relation to the gay and lesbian community.
We would expect that any new president of the ADB would continue that, and would initiate steps to address remaining anomalies within the Anti-Discrimination Act, McGrory said.