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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3929 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

providers, "Yes, you can discriminate in those circumstances, but make your discrimination relevant".

Just imagine if we did that to non-disabled people in relation to the provision of housing or accommodation. Just imagine if we said, "We can discriminate against some of you, just so long as our discrimination against you is relevant to our discrimination in favour of this other person".

While I acknowledge that the Attorney's Bill goes some way to apparently soften, though I cannot quite see how it would operate in practice, the harsh implications of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal's interpretation of section 27, it does not go far enough. It does not overcome the basic objection that we are allowing service providers not to be fully subject to anti-discrimination provisions in providing services to some of their clients. That is the end result. We are sending a signal: "Yes, in some circumstances you as a service provider can discriminate, and you are not susceptible to a complaint to the Discrimination Commissioner or to the Ombudsman, or wherever. It simply will not measure as discrimination". That is not acceptable.

I do not think we have the capacity. If we are genuine about overcoming all discrimination against all classes of people, it is not acceptable for us to have this hierarchy of discrimination that we can allow a relevant discrimination. We should not be legislating to that effect.

I foreshadow an amendment to Mr Humphries' Bill which puts people within that class in the same place as if they were not in that class. If they are discriminated against, they have the same right of recourse as anybody else. So that they are not in some way corralled or closeted. I will speak to my amendment when I move it. I do have an amendment to move, but I will do that later.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (9.44): Mr Stanhope correctly says these are very complex issues. Anybody who has read the Vella case, which went through the Discrimination Commission and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and then to the Supreme Court, would know just how complex the case is. It was right that an effort was made to clarify the Discrimination Act. Mr Humphries does have it right. Mr Stanhope's foreshadowed and circulated amendment would take it too far.

I will attempt to explain why in the simplest terms I can. It is correct to say we are discriminating against people with disabilities. But we are doing it as affirmative action. We seek to ensure that people with needs - disabilities, in this case - are in a setting as close as possible to a home rather than in an institutionalised setting. To do that, we provide funding for, among other things, a range of group homes.

It is important to put this in a national context. We have identified through the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare $294m in unmet need. There is real pressure on the financing of disability services. Ministers recognise that figure nationally as current, but we know that unmet need is growing for several reasons, not the least of which is the ageing of population and carers.

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