An election pamphlet produced by the Liberal party in Australia is being investigated after complaints that it was designed to stir up hatred of lesbian and gay people.

Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner will investigate the leaflet, which called same-sex marriage and trans rights extreme and harmful and associated them with the pirate skull and crossbones motif.

“The purpose of the Liberal pamphlet was not to promote policy debate but to foster fear, ignorance and hatred,” complainant Martine Delaney told the Hobart Mercury.

“With the right of free speech comes a responsibility not to abuse that right by inflaming prejudice.”

The Liberal party’s state director for Tasmania said they stood by the contents of the leaflet and branded the people who brought complaint as “frivolous.”

Tasmania was the last Australian state to retain criminal penalties for homosexual activity. The maximum punishment was 21 years in jail.

The laws were condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee and the Australian Federal Government in 1994 and actively campaigned against by Amnesty International.

This led to Tasmania being labelled ‘Bigot’s Island’ in the British press.

The laws were finally repealed in 1997 but not before investment, employment and population began to decline.

Prominent Australian economists such as Saul Eslake have drawn a direct connection between Tasmania’s poor reputation for embracing change and difference and its poor economic performance.

In 1999 Tasmania enacted Australia’s most progressive anti-discrimination laws, followed in 2003 by relationship laws.

For the first time in Australia same-sex couple were allowed to officially register their unions. These changes were accompanied by a shift in community attitudes towards greater acceptance of gay and lesbian people.

The Liberal party crashed to defeat at last month’s federal election after 11 years in power.