Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3595 ..
today been put before the federal parliament and this has caused genuine and considerable concern among human rights advocates. In 2016, my colleague Shane Rattenbury amended the ACT Discrimination Act to protect people of religious faith here in the ACT. Can the minister describe how the ACT currently protects people of religious faith while also ensuring the rights of other minorities are safeguarded?
MS CHEYNE: I thank Mr Davis for the very timely question, noting that the religious discrimination bill federally looks to be introduced tomorrow. Discrimination of any type is unacceptable, and I am proud that the ACT has a robust human rights framework where the protected attributes, of which there are a number, are equally protected. Religious discrimination is prohibited under the ACT’s Discrimination Act in areas of public life including education, employment and in receiving goods and services. The Discrimination Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of other protected attributes including race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, immigration status, pregnancy, parental or caring responsibility, and gender identity.
As Mr Davis flagged, the government has had a history of strengthening our discrimination law—in 2016, 2018 and last year. Notably in 2018 we strengthened protections including in educational institutions by repealing what was then section 33, limiting the ability of religious schools to take certain actions in relation to students and employees on the basis of protected attributes such as suspending or expelling a student because of their sexuality or gender identity, causing any other detriment to students on those grounds or terminating a teacher, for example, who enters a de facto relationship, but it retained the important protection for freedom of religion and religious education.
MR DAVIS: Minister, how will the ACT government ensure that the currently proposed reforms to the ACT Discrimination Act will continue to guarantee everybody in our community has security in their jobs and in their access to public services?
MS CHEYNE: I thank Mr Davis for the question and his interest in our reform work. We are continuing to strengthen our anti-discrimination laws. We are progressing our public consultation on the reforms to the Discrimination Act, and this is delivering on a commitment that was made as part of the Capital of Equality strategy. We have a discussion paper out right now seeking views from the public on a range of reform options including a proposal to extend the coverage of the Discrimination Act and those protected attributes potentially to all areas of public life. We are seeking views on the merits of placing a positive duty on public authorities and potentially businesses to eliminate discrimination. We are also looking at refining the exceptions in the Discrimination Act, just like we have done in the past.
Public consultations will take place during this month and will extend into next month as well, including with LGBTIQ+ advocacy groups, clubs, employer and employee groups, the ACT Law Society and the ACT Bar Association. I encourage all members to check out the YourSay website and to view the discussion papers.