Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 3534 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
It is true to say however, that section 27 does prevent a recipient of a special measure from alleging discrimination if they feel they have been treated unfavourably in the course of the provision of a special measure. Any degree of dissatisfaction with a service could give rise to an allegation of discrimination against the service provider were it not for section 27. Obviously, allowing persons to allege discrimination every time they felt unsatisfied would make the task of service providers, who operate within limited budgets, virtually impossible.
Given that some doubt has arisen about the way that section 27 could be interpreted, it is clearly necessary to allay the concerns of disability groups, but at the same time ensuring that the operations of service providers are not hamstrung. The Discrimination Amendment Bill (No 2) 1999 amends and clarifies section 27 of the Discrimination Act 1991 by providing that any discrimination (or unfavourable treatment) which might take place in the provision of a special measure is only lawful if it is relevant for the purpose of achieving the special measure.
I want to make it clear that this even with this amendment, section 27 will not allow members of the class being assisted by the special measures to allege discrimination simply because they are unsatisfied with the level of service. As we all know, there are not unlimited funds to provide to each and every disabled person or person requiring a special measure a "rolls royce" service which they might want. Decisions on service allocation must remain the responsibility of government and the service providers taking into account everyone's needs.
Nevertheless, service providers should make their decisions on relevant grounds and this amendment makes it clear that this requirement must be met by service providers seeking to rely on the section 27 exception to unlawful discrimination. It puts beyond doubt that the section cannot be used as a blanket ban against any form of discrimination complaint by recipients of special measures. Discrimination for reasons that have no relevance to the provision of the special measure will not be tolerated.
I believe that this amendment is vital to reassure all members of our community that they will not be denied the protections afforded under the Discrimination Act and serves to achieve a fairer and more equitable legislative regime.
I commend the Bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope ) adjourned.