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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 879 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

Other than this definition, the bill essentially adds two new clauses to the act. The first is to section 23 regarding requests for information for any of the purposes covered by the act, such as job interviews, housing applications, requests for goods and services, access to educational opportunities, and the like. This new subsection prohibits requests for information in any form that would not apply equally.

In other words, a person with a certain personal attribute covered by the act could not be asked questions about themselves that under the same circumstances would not be asked of a person who did not have that same attribute. A working example would be an employer who in an interview intended to ask a woman if she intended to become pregnant at some future time in order to use that information as a selection criteria, but who did not intend to ask a man the same question.

The final addition is a new section that provides a genuine occupational health and safety exemption to requests for personal information. Obviously, a woman who is pregnant would endanger the health of her unborn child if she worked in certain professions, such as radiology, and an exemption is required to ensure good health and safety. This example is noted in the bill and would become part of the act. Under such circumstances, where there were genuine work-related safety requirements, it would be reasonable for a potential employer to ask a woman if she intended to become pregnant.

While that question would be permitted in that very narrow set of circumstances, a positive answer would still not be lawful grounds to discriminate against the woman for the job, because sections 8 and 10 of the act would still apply-section 10 being an intent to use that information gained as a selection criteria for the job; and section 8 determining that such an intent was unreasonable and therefore considered unlawful discrimination.

I trust that this brief explanation is not too confusing, Mr Speaker. If so, I would be happy in the coming weeks to personally brief members further on these aspects of the bill.

Mr Speaker, this is important legislation. Since I began work on this a number of months ago immediately after becoming a member, I have consulted widely and found genuine support. The question of a possible impost on business was raised and quickly dispelled. I have canvassed all of the major ACT business groups and discussed the bill with them at length. They have given their support. This is an Australian first which, if successful, would raise the bar on pregnancy discrimination to a new and appropriate level. I commend the bill to members for their consideration.

On a final note, I wish to thank Jeanine Wilson and John Clifford from the Parliamentary Counsel for their help and advice in drafting the bill. It was a source of amusement to the three of us that Jeanine is pregnant herself at this time and I know that she thoroughly enjoyed the task of drafting these provisions. I wish her well in the coming months.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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