25 September 2023

AHRC turns against discrimination laws

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The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has issued a discussion paper proposing a major overhaul of Australia’s discrimination laws.

The 11-point plan was announced by the President of the Commission, Rosalind Croucher.

Professor Croucher said the paper was designed to provide a pathway for modernising Federal discrimination laws.

“This legislation has been developed over a 45-year period and in a piecemeal manner,” Professor Croucher said.

“The result is an overly complex mix of laws that have unnecessary differences in definitions and coverage between the discrimination laws, and which are difficult to use,” she said.

“This makes it harder for organisations to take measures to comply with the law, and harder for people who have been discriminated against to receive access to justice.”

She said permanent exemptions to the law had the effect of freezing in time community standards in relation to sex, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

“What was a political compromise in 1984 or 1992 is not acceptable in 21st century Australia,” Professor Croucher said.

She said the AHRC paper suggested that all permanent exemptions should exist only in circumstances that were strictly necessary and which resulted in the minimum intrusion on people’s rights.

They should also be regularly reviewed to ensure they reflected community standards and appropriately balanced competing rights.

The discussion paper forms part of the Commission’s Free and Equal: An Australian Conversation on Human Rights publication.

Professor Croucher said she looked forward to hearing the views of the community.

The Commission’s 11-point plan for reform can be accessed at this PS News link and contributions to the national conversation can be made at this link.

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