Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3886 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The Commonwealth has proposed to renew an arrangement for the funding of the Human Rights Office in the ACT, but on the basis that there is a considerable reduction in Commonwealth Government funding of the facility and a suitable increase in ACT Government funding. I think we are to increase our funding by 20 per cent and they are to reduce theirs by 30 per cent. So, Mr Speaker, it is not a deal that we exactly wanted to rush out and embrace.
Mr Speaker, I can indicate that tomorrow I will be bringing to the floor of the Assembly legislation which will establish a freestanding ACT discrimination office, which will have the function of providing for complaints under ACT discrimination legislation. It will provide for a discrimination tribunal, which will be a function of the Magistrates Court. Magistrates will constitute the discrimination tribunal. There will be a discrimination commissioner, whose function it will be to provide for conciliation of complaints, for public education about discrimination functions and for overviewing discrimination issues in the ACT. So, Mr Speaker, that is the proposal I will put to the Assembly tomorrow.
Let me say that I think it is unfortunate that we have had to separate ourselves from the Commonwealth in this regard. It would have been better to have a single one-stop shop in the Territory where everyone who had a complaint could go. What it does, unfortunately, leave open - although it is for us a cost-effective solution to this cutting of Federal funding, in effect - is the question of where people who have a complaint under Commonwealth legislation go in the ACT. I understand that, if they are not to be serviced by the ACT office - and that would depend on their coming to some agency arrangement with us - then they will have to be serviced out of Sydney, which would be unfortunate for those people who needed to use the Commonwealth discrimination Act. Fortunately, the Commonwealth and ACT legislation is very much overlapping, and there are not many cases of people who would be disadvantaged were they forced to use ACT legislation rather than the Commonwealth legislation.
MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Then, are you appalled by the reduction in the protection of human rights by your Federal Liberal counterparts compared to the efforts of the previous Labor Government?
Mr Berry: I do not think he can ask for an opinion, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Exactly. Questions should not ask Ministers for an expression of opinion.
MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak. Following the Government's decision to bludgeon Charnwood High School into closure by withdrawing its funds, the Government has announced that it will seek tenders for the sale of two sections of the former Charnwood High School site. The original plan is starting to show through. The two sections are to be rezoned - one for housing purposes - - -