Page 3577 - Week 08 - Friday, 24 August 2012

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in the ACT. That provision is exists, so there is still that check and balance on what the ACT does. It still has to be discussed in the federal parliament. So even if this was to be removed and we passed legislation around, say, voluntary euthanasia, it is likely that it would be debated before the federal parliament regardless. I think they are important comments to make. I too commend this report to the Assembly. I hope we see some movement on the issues in the very near future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Justice and Community Safety—Standing Committee

Statement by chair

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra): Members, the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, performing the duties of a scrutiny of bills and subordinate legislation committee, has considered the Discrimination Amendment Bill which was tabled in this place on Wednesday. The Discrimination Amendment Bill 2012 proposes to amend subsection 66(1) of the Discrimination Act 1991 so that it would be unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, or serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of people on the grounds of religion. Similarly, the offence provision in section 67 of the act would extend to such incitements.

The bill quite clearly engages and restricts at least the right to freedom of expression stated in section 16 of the Human Rights Act. Arguments that some rights warrant the enactment of the bill are canvassed in the explanatory statement. The scrutiny committee considers that it is not feasible for it to canvass these issues at this point. Introduction of a religious vilification law is highly contentious. Such a law has been enacted in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, but the legislatures of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia have declined to enact such a provision.

Instead, the committee may only offer these general comments as to how the rights debate might proceed.

In the first place, it will be of great assistance to the Assembly if it is provided with a plain English explanation, accompanied by illustrations, of what section 66 means and, in particular, as to how it will apply where the ground of religion is invoked. There is case law from other jurisdictions, and it is very briefly referred to in the recent advice of the Human Rights Commission. Elaboration is required, and points of uncertainty should be identified.

The Assembly will need to consider whether it accepts the way similar provisions are understood, whether section 66 will make more sense to the public if the way it will be applied is spelt out in more detail, and whether uncertainties should be resolved.

In the second place, this bill calls for a thorough justification in terms of the framework stated in section 28 of the Human Rights Act. Each of the matters stated in subsection 28(2) should be isolated and their relevance to the bill discussed. Practice reveals that the critical issue is often whether there are available options for achieving the purpose of the bill which are less restrictive of the rights, such as freedom of

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