Page 890 - Week 03 - Thursday, 7 April 2022
reforms from peak bodies, government advisory groups, community legal centres, academics, advocacy groups and members of the community.
I am pleased to present to the Assembly a listening report summarising what we heard from the community, including valuable suggestions and creative ideas about how discrimination law can be improved in the ACT. As of this morning, the listening report is now publicly available on the Your Say website.
The first issue that the listening report addresses is the proposal to expand the coverage of the Discrimination Act. LRAC identified several areas that are not explicitly covered by the existing Discrimination Act, including sports, competitions and certain government functions. There was in our consultation almost universal support for expanding the coverage of the Discrimination Act. While there was support for the Discrimination Act to cover all areas of public life, the difficulty in defining “public life” and “private life” was acknowledged in many of the submissions.
There was strong support for ensuring that discrimination protections cover all functions of government, consistent with the Human Rights Act, which imposes human rights obligations on public authorities in all of their activities and decisions.
The government also asked the community to share its views on removing all exceptions and replacing them with a “single justification defence” that is similar in concept to the balancing of rights under the Human Rights Act. As an alternative, we asked how we could refine and improve the existing exceptions.
There was little support from the community for removing all of the exceptions in the Discrimination Act. This was primarily due to concerns that a single justification defence would make discrimination law more uncertain and result in more litigation. Instead there was considerable support for reforming the existing exceptions to better protect rights.
The listening report outlines the community’s views on reforms to exceptions that relate to acts done to comply with the law, religious bodies, voluntary bodies, licensed clubs, sport, work, employing workers in private homes, and insurance and superannuation companies.
There was also very strong support for the proposal to introduce into the Discrimination Act a positive duty to eliminate discrimination. Minister Gentleman touched on this a little yesterday in his ministerial statement on psychosocial work hazards. The listening report outlines a range of views provided by the community about how to implement this duty. The community made suggestions about how organisations can be supported to meet this duty and how the duty can be tailored to reflect the size and resources of different organisations.
The community also had some suggestions for other ways that discrimination law could be improved in the ACT. The listening report outlines ideas in relation to definitions, to discrimination issues in the community, to protected attributes and to religious discrimination. The community provided feedback about discrimination