Just a few weeks ago, the Australian public was stunned to discover that SBS journalist Scott McIntyre had been instantaneously sacked for a series of tweets related to Anzac Day. Now, the ex-broadcaster has launched a discrimination case against his former employer.
Mr. McIntyre’s lawyers today lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Commission, alleging that SBS failed to follow its own administrative processes. According to the complainants, the broadcasting service breached its own internal hiring-and-firing policies after firing the sports journalist for a series of off-colour tweets.
In the social media posts, Mr. McIntyre wrote that many Anzacs were involved in “summary execution, widespread rape and theft”. The outspoken reporter then followed those incendiary comments with other statements that raised the ire of the nation.
“Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki” he wrote, referring to Australia’s war with Japan.
Lawyers from the firm Maurice Blackburn have avoided discussing the subject matter of Mr. McIntyre’s tweets. Instead, the firm maintains that the expression of a political opinion, no matter how offensive, does not constitute appropriate grounds for termination.
“The Fair Work Act protects employees from adverse action by their employer (including sacking) if they express political opinion,” the firm wrote in a statement. “It is alleged SBS took action without a proper investigation and consideration of all relevant issues. It will be contended that Mr McIntyre had an unblemished work record and if a proper process had been followed, he would still be employed in his chosen career.”
The case has raised many interesting questions about the right to free expression and speech within the Australian context. As a journalist, Mr. McIntyre’s right to free speech is perhaps even more significant and fundamental. But at the same time, SBS were no doubt stuck between a rock (the journalist) and a hard place (the outraged Australian public).
It will be interesting to see how this matter unfolds in the coming months.
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