Neil and Equestrian Australia v Hanna
Alleged breach of Equestrian Australia’s (EA’s) Member Protection Policy, Code of Conduct and Social Media Policy, concerning posts made on an online forum and text messages sent by an EA athlete about (and to) the EA head veterinarian regarding the Hendra virus vaccination in Australia. The Tribunal considered the erroneous nature of the comments, the contentiousness of the issue, the standing of the EA athlete as a 5 time Olympian, and mitigating factors including a previous apology of the EA athlete, and determined that three of the four communications constituted serious breaches of EA’s policies. The Tribunal directed the athlete to issue a written apology to the veterinarian, pay a fine, and receive a formal warning from EA.
The EA athlete also challenged the validity of the application (under section 24 of the NST Act), and whether the EA head veterinarian had standing as a party, where it was argued that the dispute appropriately arose between EA and the EA athlete. The determination carefully examines the provisions of a standard Member Protection Policy and Social Media Policy and how they are to be interpreted, and provides useful commentary on the means of lodging a valid application under section 24, the use of the term ‘applicant sporting body’, and the issue of standing as a matter peculiar to the rules of each sport.