A former Queensland assistant health minister has been awarded $1.4 million in damages after a tribunal ruled he had been discriminated against on the basis of his political beliefs and political activity.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) ruled that Doctor Chris Davis had been discriminated against when he was not given a job with the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, because he had recently fallen out with the then-Premier Campbell Newman and the LNP government.
Doctor Davis was awarded $1,450,771 which Metro North HHS must pay within 30 days.
Doctor Davis had been a member of the LNP government until May 2014, when he resigned after a spectacular falling out with Mr Newman over doctors’ contracts and changes to electoral donation laws.
The LNP largely blamed the resignation for the Labor party resurgence in Queensland and the eventual defeat of the LNP at the next election.
After leaving the parliament, Doctor Davis applied for a job with Metro North HHS as a staff specialist geriatric medicine senior medical officer.
There were only two applicants for the position, with Doctor Davis the only qualified geriatrician, which QCAT member Clare Endicott said made him “for all relevant purposes the sole applicant for the position”.
Ms Endicott noted that Metro North HHS had an established recruitment procedure, but this procedure was not followed.
“A selection panel was not formally convened. The recruitment process to fill the position did not proceed to an interview. Doctor Davis was informed verbally and by email by Doctor Denaro on 26 September 2014 that the position of senior medical officer had been withdrawn,” Ms Endicott said.
Doctor Davis argued that Metro North HHS had unlawfully discriminated against him, and did not employ him, for “the substantial reason that he held political beliefs or engaged in political activities”.
What QCAT found
Ms Endicott ruled in favour of Doctor Davis, noting that he had been “publicly critical of the Liberal National Party government, and in particular of the Premier”.
“An inference of discrimination is open on the cumulative weight of the evidence, that a decision was made on 2 September 2014 not to employ Doctor Davis because of Doctor Davis’ attribute of political belief and activity,” she said.
Ms Endicott said Metro North HHS’s then CEO Malcolm Stamp and board chairman Doctor Paul Alexander could not give an innocent explanation that could negate the inference that Doctor Davis was not employed because of his political belief and activity.
“In fact, the evidence reveals that no reason was given for the decision by the chief executive officer at that time: not clinical streaming, not budgetary concerns, not a concern about his ‘fit’ for the role,” she said.
“It is reasonable for the tribunal to draw the inference that the reason for the decision was directly connected to who the sole applicant was and to his recent actions (less than four months previously and as recently as late as July 2014) as a politician and as a potential future political candidate.”
What the law says
George Calderon, lawyer and seconded consultant at Discrimination Claims, said Queensland workers are protected from discrimination on the basis of their political belief and activity.
“Discrimination happens when someone is treated less favourably than someone else based on a particular attribute, and in Queensland, under the Anti-Discrimination Act, one of those protected attributes is someone’s political belief or activity,” he said.
Mr Calderon said the case of Doctor Davis shows how seriously the law takes proven cases of discrimination.
“The law says that people should not be punished if they choose to have a life in politics, and they should not be punished if they hold political views that are contrary to the government of the day,” he said.
Doctor Davis told Fairfax that the case should never have happened.
“It is difficult enough to get people to stand for election and come from diverse backgrounds, so it’s very worrying that they can be got at after politics in a way that appears to be the case per the tribunal’s judgement,” he said.
Metro North HHS said it is seeking further legal advice.
If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of a political belief or activity, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help and advice, please call our team at Discrimination Claims on
1300 853 837
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