Delay on stronger anti-discrimination laws met with extreme disappointment

The Federal Government’s announcement that it has delayed its consolidation of anti-discrimination laws has been met with extreme disappointment amongst community and human rights groups. The HRLC's Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said the delay was  incredibly disappointing, given these reforms have been the subject of significant discussion and public consultation since 2007 when the Senate Committee conducted its inquiry into the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

"The political reality is the choice to delay these reforms means effectively abandoning their introduction before the election,” said Mr de Kretser.

By not introducing the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, the Government has failed in its commitment to deliver on a key plank of its Human Rights Framework, a suite of reforms introduced in response to a major national inquiry in 2009. The Government rejected the inquiry’s key recommendation to enact a Charter of Rights, but adopted a range of initiatives to better protect and promote human rights.

In November 2012 the Federal Government slashed funding for human rights education, a key component of the Framework, and has now delayed the consolidation of anti-discrimination laws.

“Another pillar of the Government’s human rights framework is under threat, this time at a final critical hurdle after years of work and investment by those working in the discrimination system and representing vulnerable groups.

“The existing laws have gaps and fail to provide effective remedies.

“The update and modernisation of our anti-discrimination laws is long overdue and would have benefited businesses and individuals alike. We’re talking about five different laws passed over decades, the oldest of which is now close to 40 years old," said Mr de Kretser.

The Government has already indicated that it will remove or amend the controversial ‘offence’ clause that caused significant confusion and concern during the consultation on the exposure draft Bill. With this amendment, the Bill is generally good and should be introduced without delay.

Despite the delay in the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, the Government will introduce amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act  this week to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination.

"This represents a significant advance for LGBTI people, including adopting international best practice in the protection of transgender and intersex people. However, we're waiting to see the detail of the legislation," said Mr de Kretser.