Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1716 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Again, I would like to convey the Government's thanks to those people who participated in the focus groups as it has given us some valuable insights.
Appendix 1 to the Government Report identifies a number of provisions that still discriminate in respect of their application to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The Government will address a number of these issues in a package of legislation that I intend to introduce into this Assembly before the end of this year.
While some of the details of this package are still being developed, I would like to briefly outline the Government's general direction on these matters for the information of Members.
The package will include amendments to the Discrimination Act 1991 to provide that it is unlawful to vilify a person on the grounds of sexuality, transsexuality or HIV/AIDS status and will also create an offence of serious vilification on the same grounds.
Some people have expressed the fear that such provisions might be used to gag free speech and interfere with legitimate religious discussion.
I do not believe that such fears are in any way grounded.
The test for vilification is "a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons".
Serious vilification involves the additional element of threatening physical harm, or inciting others to threaten physical harm.
These are high thresholds that I consider should not impinge on legitimate religious teaching or free speech.
Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right to freedom of expression. Article 19(3) notes that the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities and recognises that the right may be restricted in order to respect the rights and reputations of others.
Article 18(1) of the ICCPR protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. As with Article 19, Article 18(3) expressly recognises that this right can be limited.
The proposed anti-vilification laws restrict freedom of expression and religion only insofar as the exercise of those rights may interfere with an individual's right to privacy which includes his or her sexuality and health status. The right to privacy is guaranteed under Article 17 of the ICCPR.
The restrictions on rights in the proposed anti-vilification laws are both legitimate and consistent with Australia's international human rights obligations.
The package will also include amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 to qualify the general application of the defence of provocation so that it is not available in the case of a non-violent homosexual advance.
The issue of the general availability of provocation as a defence to murder will be addressed as part of the implementation of the model criminal code. In addition, the package will also deal with a number of miscellaneous amendments that are more in the nature of "tidying up"amendments.
Included in these amendments will be an amendment to the Public Baths and Public Bathing Act 1956 to repeal the offence provisions relating to the segregation of public baths and public bathing facilities.