One Nation NSW leader, Mark Latham MLC, has been accused of misusing parliamentary privilege to launch an attack on Sydney gay activist Garry Burns.
In a speech to NSW Parliament, former federal opposition leader Latham also savaged NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Dr Annabelle Bennett and NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman.
“I need to bring to the attention of the house letters forwarded to me by Mr Garry Burns, a serial complainant to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board,” Latham said in his speech to parliament, video of which has been posted online at the Mark Latham’s Outsiders Facebook page.
Latham accused Burns of using anti-discrimination legislation to abuse far-right anti-gay campaigner Bernard Gaynor, and to pursue personal grudges.
“Burns has lodged hundreds of trivial and vexatious complaints, mainly directed at a Queensland resident, Bernard Gaynor, but also a series of media commentators,” Latham told parliament.
“Unbelievably, in a NSW justice system experiencing long court delays and a lack of resources … Burns has been allowed to eat up huge amounts of public money and staff time pursuing his personal obsession with comments about sexuality.”
Latham claimed Burns had been “emboldened” by the Anti-Discrimination Board and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), to the point where the activist now felt comfortable sending “menacing letters” to MPs.
Latham alleged Burns had sent him a letter which suggested that disgraced Catholic cardinal and convicted sex offender George Pell should be killed in prison, as well as letters containing “very abusive and improper suggestions about my good self”.
“This is the person whose serial complaints have been entertained and, at times, encouraged by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board,” said Latham.
“At every turn, the Attorney General’s department has backed Burns in his vengeful campaign against Bernard Gaynor and others,” he said, before claiming the Anti-Discrimination Board president and Attorney General were complicit.
In response, Burns admitted he was prone to “colourful language” but claimed Latham had misrepresented and exaggerated his communications. Burns said he unashamedly used the Anti-Discrimination Board and NCAT to pursue gay vilification matters under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.
“I make no bones about it, I consider it my life’s work,” Burns told the Star.
“If people don’t breach the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, they have nothing to fear from me,” he said.
“Latham and Gaynor’s problem is that they want free reign to vilify homosexuals and other minority groups. They can’t stand the fact that I’m using the law to help put a stop to vilification.”
Burns invited Latham to repeat his comments “outside the coward’s castle of parliamentary privilege” and said he would make an official complaint to the NSW Legislative Council Privileges Committee, which considers and reports on matters relating to parliamentary privilege.
“The matters he speaks of involving Mr Gaynor are currently before the court and should not be the topic of third party discussion by members of the NSW Parliament,” said Burns.
“People have been publishing derogatory things on the internet in relation to me since Mr Latham mentioned me in the NSW Parliament.
“I have been referred to as a dog and other defamatory imputations have also been published.”
This latest affair concerning Latham and the LGBT community follows Latham’s support for anti-trans ‘information packs’ compiled by a right-wing lobby group.
At least 500 P&C groups across NSW have been sent the packs, which were officially launched by Latham early last month.
The packs – which discourage the acceptance of trans children and warn against “indoctrination programs” – were developed by Binary Australia, a group formed last year from the ashes of the Marriage Alliance, which campaigned heavily against marriage equality and other LGBT rights.
Latham has been contacted by the Star for comment.