Submission: Exposure Draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012

RLC and the Australian Human Rights Centre welcome the consolidation of federal human rights and discrimination laws into a single Act, with greater consistency and simplicity. 

We support the passage of the Bill, while submitting that some further improvements can be made in particular to the provisions relating reasonable adjustments and standing, as well as protected attributes, including the addition of ‘intersex’, ‘victim of domestic violence’, and ‘irrelevant criminal record’ as protected attributes.

The inclusion of a clause to make discrimination unlawful in ‘any area of public life’ is strongly welcomed, as under the current collection of anti-discrimination laws there are many situations where it is unclear if anti-discrimination laws apply.

We welcome the proposal that discrimination on the grounds of industrial history, medical opinion, nationality or citizenship, political opinion, religion and social origin be unlawful in the area of work. Despite this improvement, there is no reason why discrimination on these grounds, and on the ground of family responsibilities, should be confined to the area of work.

We propose that a new provision be introduced to allow for representative bodies to initiate legal proceedings with leave of the court. This would help to address concerns about ‘opening the floodgates’ to claims and litigation and would make justice more accessible.