London, 27 February 2013
On 21 February 2013, the Australian Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (the Committee) published its report on the Draft Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Bill 2012 (the Draft Bill), marking an important step in Australia’s progress towards enacting comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) welcomes this step, and the Committee’s decision to adopt a key ERT recommendation on reducing the scope of religious exemptions.
In December 2012, The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) responded to the Committee’s consultation on the Draft Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Bill. ERT welcomed the Draft Bill, but made a number of recommendations on how it could be strengthened to ensure full compliance with international law and best practice on equality, including the Declaration of Principles on Equality. ERT’s recommendations included: the extension of the list of protected attributes, and the use of an open-ended list; the treatment of positive action as an obligation to achieve full equality, rather than an exception; and the inclusion of a failure to take reasonable accommodation measures as a form of discrimination.
The Draft Bill contains a significant exception for discrimination by religious bodies or educational institutions. The Committee acknowledged ERT’s argument that this exception was too broad and would be inconsistent with the right to non-discrimination. ERT is therefore pleased that the Committee has recommended that the exception be narrowed so as not to permit discrimination in the provision of services. While ERT argued for the removal of the exception from the Draft Bill, we nevertheless urge the Government of Australia to accept the Committee’s recommendation.
ERT continues to monitor the efforts of the Government of Australia to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, but retains serious concerns that in its current form, the Draft Bill falls short of the standards required by international law. ERT is therefore disappointed that the Committee did not adopt its recommendations on several other important issues (related to grounds, positive action and reasonable accommodation), and urges the Government of Australia to take these recommendations into account when finalising the Draft Bill.
To read ERT’s Submission on the Draft Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Bill, click here
To read the report of the Australian Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the Draft Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Bill, click here