Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1907 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Government has a clear role in providing the impetus and support for continuing social change. A well-resourced discrimination commissioner and human rights office would be a good start. Continuing public education programs and school initiatives would also be welcomed. When it comes to discrimination, simply changing laws will not fix the problem. There needs to be the political will and public funding to ensure these laws are enforced and, better still, ways to prevent discrimination from occurring in the first place.
MR STEFANIAK (11.06): Mr Speaker, firstly I commend my colleague Mrs Cross for bringing this bill on. It certainly extends the Discrimination Act. I particularly commend her on the way she went about it. There has been extensive consultation in relation to this-I see Mr Humphries nodding his head. I can recall there being a large number of us when Mrs Cross convened the meeting several months ago. Mr Humphries and I were there, with various business community representatives and other groups in relation to a number of issues-and this issue was on the agenda.
You would have thought some of the business groups might have been somewhat concerned about this, but they were supportive of it. I commend Mrs Cross again for the way she went about consulting with the business community, probably allaying some fears and getting a good consensus going with that community. That also occurred with groups in this Assembly, as Mrs Cross worked through the bill.
I come to the scrutiny of bills report which the Chief Minister briefly outlined. I believe that what has happened is far better than what could have happened. I can appreciate the problems. Even the Chief Minister alluded to them in his reply, in saying that things like potential parenthood are for another day. That was mentioned in the scrutiny of bills report simply to be helpful, and to see if that was something in which the mover of the bill might be interested. To Mrs Cross' credit, she took that on board, got further advice, looked at it and ultimately-and quite sensibly-came up with the conclusion that that is incredibly difficult to define. Indeed she was advised accordingly, she told me, by Parliamentary Counsel. So we have the bill before us today, which obviously has support.
I understand there are a number of amendments, which I am advised are agreed to. However, after listening to the Chief Minister, I am not too sure.
Mr Stanhope: They were suggested by us, so yes we do agree to them. They are our amendments!
MR STEFANIAK: Were they? That was a bit of an outburst, Chief Minister! I thought you were being a bit churlish there, but I am glad you have qualified that by saying there does seem to be agreement. That is a good thing. It shows that the parties in this place can work together. It indicates the amount of consultation that has gone towards getting this bill this far today-and obviously it is now law.
I understand it is going to be a first in Australia, and I look forward to seeing positive applications as a result of it. I again commend my colleague Mrs Cross for bringing the bill forward today. I will be interested to see if other states follow it-and, indeed, when they follow it.