Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2004) . . Page.. 2742 ..

The government undertook as an election promise to amend the Discrimination Act to put the meaning of section 27 beyond doubt and to ensure that the provision operates as originally intended. The purpose of the amendment is to more clearly express the policy objective of protecting special measures programs for people with special needs from legal challenge by people not intended to benefit from the program, without protecting any negative discrimination within those programs.

The bill clarifies by way of example that the words ‘members of a relevant class of people’ in section 27(1) of the Act refers to people intended to be beneficiaries of a special measure. Therefore only beneficiaries of a special measure may legitimately invoke section 27(2). This will prevent people from outside those groups being able to successfully challenge a measure designed to promote equality for disadvantaged groups.

Section 27(2) will be improved by using a test for reasonableness, rather than relevance. By using a reasonableness test, beneficiaries will be protected against unlawful discrimination in the administration of special measures programs by the same standard as is applied to the rest of the community. It makes the threshold level of what constitutes unlawful discrimination in section 27 internally consistent with the rest of the Act (as defined in section 8 of the Act). It is not acceptable that the most vulnerable members of our society are afforded a lower standard of protection against discrimination than everyone else.

The Bill therefore ensures that people who are entitled to special services have the same right as the rest of the community to make a discrimination complaint about the services that they receive. The Human Rights Act 2004 recognises the right to equal protection of the law. The Bill gives effect to the fundamental principle of equal and effective protection against discrimination. As such it is part of the government’s broader commitment to building a culture of respect for human rights through the introduction of a Human Rights Act for the ACT.

The Bill does not put service providers at risk of unreasonable demands on their services. Service providers will continue to be able to make decisions about which clients they provide services to. However, those decisions must be based on criteria which are reasonable and proportionate to the delivery of those services. Human rights standards require that limits on rights be reasonable and proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim.

Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Attachment 4

Document incorporated by the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and Minister for Arts and Heritage

Mr Speaker, I present the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2004. The Bill makes a number of important changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. In particular, the amendments now deal with occupants, such as boarders and lodgers, who have not previously been recognised under the Act.

The amendments are based on a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 undertaken by my department. The review commenced in 2002 when a broad range of industry groups and other stakeholders were invited to identify issues with the

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .