Australia: The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission wimps out -- They only persecute Christian Pastors

On 21 December I posted an email from Joe Cambria challenging the Equal Opportunity Commission of Victoria to take action about an anti-Muslim article that was in fact much more scathing than the Christian Pastors the EOCV has prosecuted. Below is the evasive reply (in rather poor English) received by Mr Cambria plus a rejoinder from Mr Cambria

"Thank you for your email of 20th December 2005 concerning issues in relation to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic) ("the RRTA"), which also contained a recent article by Gerard Jackson from Your email attributed the Equal Opportunity Commission with a particular role under the RRTA which is incorrect - I would like to address these inaccuracies.

In particular, apart from very limited circumstances, the Commission is not responsible for initiating and pursuing complaints under the RRTA. Complaints under the RRTA are lodged by individuals or representative bodies who firstly decide whether they wish to initiate a complaint, and then decide how far they wish to pursue the matter.

The vast majority of complaints are finalised in the course of the Commission's impartial investigation and conciliation processes, however, if complaints are not conciliated, the person or body who lodged the complaint can have the matter referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ("VCAT").

Where a request is made to refer a complaint to VCAT the Commission has no discretion in the matter and must act on that request. The Commission is not a party to hearings at VCAT and plays no part in their determination. I noted above that there are very limited circumstances in which the Commission can initiate a complaint under the RRTA. Thus far the Commission has not used this power.

The other matter you raised concerned the actions of a former staff member of the Commission, in relation to the seminar that was the subject matter of the recent RRTA case involving the Catch the Fire Ministry. In the context of the Commission's role under the RRTA that I have described above, the Commission upholds the most stringent standards of confidentiality, impartiality and political independence in all its dealings. The Commission does not pre-empt or manufacture complaints - we provide a free, impartial and confidential complaint resolution service for people, and offer education and information about discrimination, sexual harassment and racial and religious vilification.

The Commission's education and complaint resolution functions are kept strictly separate and all complaints are subject to strict confidentiality standards. If a staff member, past or present has acted improperly they did so without the authority of the Commission, and all Commission staff are regularly reminded about the parameters of their role and the differences between outreach, education and advocacy.

With regard to the article your forwarded to me I do not intent to make any comment.

Dr Helen Szoke, Chief Conciliator/Chief Executive Officer, Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria, Level 3, 380 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9281 7170 Fax: (03) 9281 7159 web:

Dear Ms. Szoke:

Thank you for taking time to reply. It's not obvious little can be done about Gerry Jackson's accusations regarding the Islamic Prophet. I spoke with Gerry about the issues you mentioned in your letter and he suggests you simply follow the same course of action your office did when it went after the two Christian Pastors. That is, request May Helou from your office to ask a couple of Islamic converts to read the contents of Gerry's article and file a complaint. It doesn't seem very hard does it, after all Ms. Helou seems to be accomplished in such tasks? As I see it, what's "good" for the Pastors is "good" for Gerry Jackson, don't you think?

Comments? Email John Ray

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