Priorities for Federal Discrimination Law Reform – QAI Submission
QAI made a submission in November 2019 to the Australian Human Rights Commission on the Priorities for Federal Discrimination Law Reform.
Summary of QAI’s Recommendations:
- QAI supports the summary of proposed priorities for federal discrimination law reform.
- QAI considers that the Federal Government should undertake structural and substantive reform of the current discrimination laws, consolidating the separate discrimination statutes into a single Act that is comprehensive, consistent and extends reasonable adjustments to impose a specific positive duty across all protected attributes in all protected areas of life.
- QAI submits that existing protected attributes should be extended to include carer’s responsibility, volunteers and interns, accommodation status and subjection to domestic and family violence.
- The legislation should reflect and incorporate the obligations Australia has assumed at international law.
- Gaps in coverage for carer’s responsibility, volunteers and interns, accommodation status and domestic and family violence must be addressed.
- All permanent exemptions should be reviewed not only in light of the overall purpose of discrimination law to promote equality and fair treatment, but also having regard to the purpose and intent of the CRPD.
- Current compliance mechanisms administered by the Commission are necessary and helpful and QAI supports their continuation. We note the significant problems with the temporary exemptions available under the DDA and consider that the granting of exemptions can undermine the strength and power of discrimination law.
- QAI strongly supports the Commission’s position that there is a need for greater awareness-raising activities and possibly industry support to promote compliance, as well as robust review processes to measure the effectiveness of the Disability Standards. QAI considers that the introduction of voluntary audits, a general inquiry function and positive duties would be of significant value.
- QAI strongly supports the introduction of a positive duty for public entities to proactively take measures to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment and advance equality.
- QAI agrees that complaints processes must be available and accessible for all people.
- QAI notes that the nature of confidential conciliations reduces the likelihood that matters will resolve and places the complainant in the position of having to proceed to a less accessible and available forum, which is a significant limitation of discrimination law.
- QAI proposes extending the timeframe to 12 months, with extensions available, to cover complex disputes and circumstances where vulnerable complainants have been unable or unwilling to take action earlier.
- QAI strongly supports the provision of greater clarity about the ability for representative actions to be brought and agrees this would enable a greater focus on systemic discrimination issues and reduce the pressure on individual complainants.
- QAI submits that there should be no costs orders made against a complainant, except in very exceptional cases where there has been a clear demonstration of a deliberate and vexatious misuse of process. Strong safeguards should be in place regarding legal representation.
- QAI considers that there must be measures introduced to address the particular vulnerability of persons experiencing intersectional discrimination that includes harassment and vilification. Protections for vilification under federal discrimination law should be at least equivalent to the protections offered by state law and should attract both civil and criminal penalties in appropriate cases.
- Discrimination should not remain the sole remedy under Commonwealth law for a vulnerable person who has experienced an unlawful breach of their human rights. It is time to enact a federal Human Rights Act or Charter, which translates the international human rights Australia has agreed to respect and protect into binding domestic law.
You can read the full submission here.