‘Racism’ com­plainant sues pa­per for $1.6m

The Australian - - THE NATION - NICOLA BERKOVIC LE­GAL AF­FAIRS CORRESPONDENT

A Cam­bo­dian Aus­tralian whose com­plaint against The Aus­tralian for racial dis­crim­i­na­tion has been thrown out by the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion is seek­ing $1.6 mil­lion in Fed­eral Court dam­ages.

Gold Coast resident Sokhom Prins has launched the ac­tion against three staff of The Aus­tralian — jour­nal­ists Hedley Thomas and Chris Mer­ritt, and colum­nist Janet Al­brecht­sen — as well as its pub­lisher, Na­tion­wide News, and chief ex­ec­u­tive, Ni­cholas Gray, claim­ing she has been the vic­tim of racial ha­tred.

Ms Prins, who is legally un­rep­re­sented and calls her­self a “vic­tim of racism” on Twit­ter, al­leges the news­pa­per and its staff have breached sec­tion 18C of the Hu­man Rights Act.

She has ap­plied for her hus­band, Hen­drik Prins, who is not a lawyer, to rep­re­sent her.

Sec­tion 18C makes it un­law­ful to of­fend, in­sult, hu­mil­i­ate or in­tim­i­date any­one be­cause of their race, colour or eth­nic ori­gin.

Ms Prins has writ­ten abu­sive emails to jour­nal­ists at The Aus­tralian, in which she has la­belled them “the en­emy”, called them “white racists” and said they were part of a “white racist posse” for call­ing for changes to sec­tion 18C of the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act. Last year, the Fed­eral Court dis­missed a com­plaint by ad­min­is­tra­tion worker Cindy Prior, who tried to sue three Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy stu­dents for $250,000 af­ter they posted com­ments on Face­book about be­ing asked to leave an in­dige­nous-only com­puter room.

The case prompted calls for the leg­is­la­tion to be over­hauled be­cause of its im­pact on free speech.

Ms Prins first com­plained to the AHRC about racial ha­tred but her com­plaint was ter­mi­nated on July 11 be­cause it was lack­ing in sub­stance. In dis­miss­ing her com­plaint, an AHRC of­fi­cial wrote: “It is not clear how the acts com­plained of could be said to have been done be­cause of your Asian race or eth­nic ori­gin or the race or eth­nic ori­gins of Asian peo­ple more broadly.”

The of­fi­cial said the ar­ti­cle and the emails com­plained of did not re­fer to her race or eth­nic ori­gin, or to any par­tic­u­lar racial group or na­tional or eth­nic ori­gin.

A spokesman for Ms Prins yes­ter­day de­clined to com­ment.

The first court date is Oc­to­ber 9, in the Fed­eral Cir­cuit Court.

In her blog, Ms Prins says she fights for women’s rights and em­pow­er­ment. She says her mem­oir re­veals the “sin­is­ter in­ten­tion of gay ac­tivists world­wide” to “con­vert chil­dren to gays”, and ex­horts “Hetero’s” to “rise up, de­stroy evil, save the planet from gay pol­lu­tion”.

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