It’s 2am, and Mitchell Street in downtown Darwin is not a good time or place to pick an argument with a titty-bar bouncer.

But one morning, a year ago, Waqas Haider found himself standing on Mitchell Street with a handful of balloons facing an angry bouncer for the Honey Pot tits-and-arse bar —  “watch one of our showgirls, or pole acrobats or get a private show” — at the grubby end of Mitchell Street in Darwin’s “entertainment” district.

What happened next is clear from the video that Haider’s mate Ammad Naveed recorded on his phone. It is also clear that there was a “very vigorous” exchange between Haider and at least one bouncer, including no shortage of the use of “fuck” and its variants by both sides.

But the spray from at least one of the bouncers was, as the Sunday Territorian reported in July, 2014, aimed straight at Haider’s race:

“‘You’re a fucking Indian mate. Have a respect for our country,’  he can be heard to say.

“‘Speak English.’

“‘It’s our country. Australia mate. White people.’ …

“In the video, Mr Haider can be heard saying to the bouncer: ‘I’m fucking Australian.’ …

“Mr Haider accused the bouncer of being a ‘fucking racist,’ to which the bouncer can be heard to say: ‘That’s right, we’re all fucking racists.’

“‘Go complain to the fucking government, they’ll kick you out.’

“A voice is heard to say: ‘Shut up you fucking gook.'”

The bouncer continued his abusive rant and challenged Haider to produce his visa. He then approached Haider and pushed him firmly in the chest. Shortly after this, the police approached, and the bouncer retreated into the Honey Pot. Haider and his friend went home.

But Haider wasn’t going to let the matter go and took his complaint to the NT Police, who told him that as it was a civil matter, they couldn’t assist.

Haider then went to the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission, which was also unable to assist, because, as Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sally Sievers told Ruby Jones of the ABC, there:

“‘ … is a hole in the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Act that it doesn’t cover racial vilification … Every other state in Australia covers the issue of racial vilification.'”

In the Anti-Discrimination Commission’s 2013-2014 Annual Report Sievers explained that this “hole in the law” was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons:

“Vilification often occurs online or outside formal relationships such as employer/employee; student/teacher. Comments or actions are often between strangers and are impromptu. Comments can be highly offensive and emotionally charged. Complainants often report feeling scared and unsafe in their community.

“The absence of legislation in the Northern Territory means that affected individuals must lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney.”

Haider did make an application to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which investigated his complaint. That investigation was terminated when the bouncer told the commission he did not recall the incident.

The only avenue left for Haider was to apply to the Federal Court, which he did. In early December, 2014, Justice John Mansfield considered the application.

Haider sought $25,000 in compensation for emotional stress suffered during the incident, in particular his public embarrassment and severe emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of income and employment and loss of reputation. He also sought an apology from the bouncer or his employer, who the court had found was “vicariously liable”.

Last Friday, Mansfield delivered his judgment, awarding Haider $9000 in compensation for loss and damage and making a declaration that the owner of the Honey Pot Club, Hawaiian Punch Pty Ltd, committed unlawful discrimination by using language that was reasonably likely to offend, insult and intimidate by reason of race and ethnic origin, contrary to section 18C(1) of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Haider represented himself before the court. Neither Hawaiian Punch Pty Ltd nor the bouncer with the failed memory appeared in court.

Haider was born in Pakistan and has been an Australian citizen since 2013.

Peter Fray

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