The Federal Court has ruled that the Australian government can take legal action to defend an author’s claims that he was subjected to a homophobic tirade from an official at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 2008.
The court’s decision comes after the Government appealed a decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support claims that the DfAT officials were homophobic.
The Federal Court was told that the official had told the author, a former diplomat, to “get over it” because he was a gay man.
The decision came after the author had written to the Federal Government, asking for an investigation into the events surrounding the tirade, which he described as “disgusting”.
“I was deeply offended by the words uttered by an DFAT official.
In particular, he implied that I had made ‘ghetto jokes’, a remark that was clearly inappropriate for an Australian diplomat,” the author wrote.
The case against the Government was brought by the author’s former employer, who claimed the DFAT had discriminated against him because of his sexuality.
“The Department of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has repeatedly and publicly stated that it is committed to ensuring that our diplomats are treated with respect and dignity and that this respect is maintained in all circumstances,” DFAT spokesperson Lisa Aylward told the ABC.
“In particular, we continue to actively work to eradicate discrimination against all Australians and recognise and encourage the equality of all persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion.”
The Federal Government was also contacted by the writer and was unable to comment.
The DfT has defended its actions, saying that it “did not believe the statement was offensive” and that the “official was responding to a complaint that a diplomat had made about the conduct of a staff member”.
“At no point did any member of staff attempt to intervene in the internal affairs matter, which was handled by an independent and impartial official,” the department said in a statement.
“There was no breach of any laws or protocols that would have required an intervention by an outside agency.”
The decision comes as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is also preparing to appeal against the Federal Circuit Court’s ruling.
Topics:discrimination,government-and-politics,immigration,foreign-affairs,international-law,dfats,law-crime-and/or-justice,australiaFirst posted January 18, 2019 09:47:03Contact Kate WarkleyMore stories from New South Wales