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The Greens are also taking this opportunity to make a simple amendment which addresses other potential loopholes in the Discrimination Act in relation to sexual harassment in the workplace. Mr Speaker, members will be well aware that the motivation behind the Discrimination Act is that no-one should be subject to discrimination, on the basis of a broad selection of grounds and attributes ranging from sex and sexuality to race, age, impairment or membership of any association, as well as many others. It is therefore appropriate that there be no potential loopholes which may result from interpretation of the Act.
As the legislation stands, Part V dealing with sexual harassment is likely to cover nearly all cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, unlike Federal legislation on which the ACT legislation was modelled, there are potential loopholes, for example, in the case of contract workers. This can be addressed by adding an additional subsection from the Commonwealth legislation which refers to workplace participants. We have also chosen to extend this further to ensure that it covers anyone seeking to become a workplace participant. Someone attending a job interview, for example, would also be covered by the Act.
I am sure that all members will agree that this is a sensible amendment, consistent with the philosophy behind this piece of legislation. It reflects what I hope is a strong commitment from all members in this Assembly to condemn sexual harassment and abuse in our society. It has come to our notice since we put this amendment together that it still may not be sufficient. We are not sure whether the definition of “workplace participant” will cover work experience people, so we will also be looking into that.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (11.57): Again, Mr Speaker, I accept the amendment that has been put forward. As Ms Tucker suggests, I think this is a sensible step. It offers further protection to everybody in the workplace against discrimination and against sexual harassment. For that reason, because it is a broadening of that protection, I believe that it is entirely appropriate that we deal with it at the same time as we are dealing with the amendment which I have put forward. I support the amendment.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.58): The Government also supports this amendment, Mr Speaker. As indicated, it widens the scope of the legislation. I suppose that the argument could be advanced that perhaps we should not have definitions at all about where and in what circumstances sexual harassment should not occur. Perhaps the legislation should simply say that no sexual harassment at all should occur. I have not explored fully the implications of that kind of argument. Certainly, under the framework of the present legislation, particularly section 59, the workplace may not extend to the point of an example that was put to me of two paralegals in a legal firm who meet at the Land Titles Office to exchange contracts, to do work on behalf of their employers. Under this definition, that would be a workplace which probably is not covered in the present legislation. Therefore, this amendment would extend the scope of the legislation and protect more people in those circumstances. That is obviously appropriate. For that reason, this amendment is supported by the Government.