December 23, 2015
A Senate candidate running on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigration platform says she is being discriminated against by her public service bosses over her contentious political views.
Kim Vuga, a one-time participant on the SBS program Go Back to Where You Came From who went on to form the political party Love Australia or Leave, was given seven days to resign by her superiors at Townsville Hospital and Health Service in north Queensland.
In a letter from the chief operating officer of Townsville Hospital, Danielle Hornsby, Ms Vuga was told that section 44 of the constitution requires that a state public sector employee has to resign before contesting an election.
“I am seeking your immediate action to advise me of your resignation within seven days of receipt of this letter,” Ms Hornsby wrote on December 17.
In the letter she cites the case of Phil Cleary, the independent who won the Melbourne seat of Wills in a 1992 byelection sparked by the retirement of former prime minister Bob Hawke. The High Court declared his election void because he was still employed as a teacher in Victoria – despite him being on unpaid leave at the time of the ballot.
But constitutional expert Professor Anne Twomey told Fairfax Media that section 44 did not apply to candidates like Ms Vuga who have publicly expressed their intention to run in an upcoming election that has not been called.
She said the constitution only required that a public servant resign by the time nominations close, generally two to three weeks out from polling day.
“Given that we are nowhere near the date that a Senate election will be called, section 44 is completely irrelevant,” Professor Twomey said.
Ms Vuga, who works as a community mental health officer, said her superiors did not like her strident political views and they were seeking to get her out of the public service because of them.
“I’ve been discriminated against. I believe I am too controversial for them,” she said.
“They want me to be unemployed just before Christmas. It’s un-Australian, it’s unfair. What happened to looking after workers? If these bullies and thugs can do this to me they can do it to anyone.”
Among Love Australia or Leave’s most controversial policies is a full ban on any more Muslim immigration into Australia.
“Our cultures are incompatible and we need to be sorting out the Muslim problem that exists here before we take any more [refugees and Muslim immigrants],” Ms Vuga told Fairfax Media in November.
Ms Vuga wrote back to Ms Hornsby on Monday, refusing to resign.
“I am not yet a politician as stated. I am not yet a candidate, however as I stated, I will be intending to contest as a QLD Senate candidate at the 2016 election representing Love Australia or Leave Party,” she wrote.
A reply letter from Ms Hornsby, sent on December 22, appears to suggest the Health Service could back down.
Ms Hornsby pointed to the Queensland Health policy.
“I note that the policy references section 44 of the Commonwealth constitution, and then provides further context by referring to decisions made by the High Court of Australia, to provide further guidance to help relieve ambiguity. The High Court of Australia determined that a Victorian school teacher (state employed) was declared invalid because he had not resigned from public employment. The policy indicates that this would take effect before nominating with the Australian Electoral Commission to contest the election,” she wrote.
“My intention in writing to you was to inform you of this information, which may impact on you.
“I apologise if my original letter did not make this intention clear.”
Contacted by Fairfax Media, Ms Hornsby said she was unable to comment.
Source : Canberra Times