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The Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the part of employers, but there is no specific reference to the relationship between the member and his or her staff as being one of employment. The law, as it stands, creates ambiguity as to the status of members and office-holders in relation to their staff, opening up the way for argument. Indeed, members will be aware of an argument of this kind going on at this very time in the Human Rights Office. The Act could thus be seen as permitting some exemption of members of the Assembly from the processes which we, as members of the Assembly, have applied to others in the community. That ambiguity ought therefore to be cleared up.

The Discrimination (Amendment) Bill which is before us today attempts to remedy this ambiguity by inserting a provision that for the purpose of the Discrimination Act a member of the Assembly is deemed to be an employer in relation to any person seeking employment or employed under the LA(MS) Act. At this point I should indicate that, although that is fine in the sense that all members of this place are members of the Assembly by definition, there is some possible ambiguity concerning whether members of the Assembly in this context also include Ministers and office-holders - you, Mr Speaker, and possibly the Leader of the Opposition as well. It is appropriate to clarify that matter and ensure that “members” covers all 17 members and not simply those who are not office-holders as well. That distinction arises from the fact that there is a distinction in the LA(MS) Act between those two sorts of positions. Rather than leave it in doubt, we should clarify it entirely.

Mr Speaker, I support the Bill. I am also aware of an amendment by Ms Tucker which I believe could be supported by the Government. I think this will ensure that people see us as not being above the law but being prepared to abide by the same terms of the law that we have imposed on the rest of the com


MR MOORE (11.46): Mr Speaker, I think that whenever we can take action to improve our Discrimination Act we should do it. Perhaps at some stage we ought to change its name to something a bit more rational as well.

Ms Follett: Hear, hear! Does that mean that we have the numbers?

MR MOORE: I have always been keen to change the name. As I recall, Mr Speaker, when we dealt with the name of this Act I was on side with Labor. I have not counted the numbers with other people, but I think it is time that we had a much more rational name. As I recall, it was Mr Collaery who was keen - - -

Ms Follett: We had no name for a while.

MR MOORE: In fact, it was the Bill with no name. I am pleased that it did get a name. Nevertheless, it is a lousy one, and I think we need to rectify that.

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