Monday, 27 May 2013
Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013; Report from Committee
On behalf of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs I present the committee's advisory report on the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013, together with the minutes of proceedings.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.
I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
On 21 March 2013, the Selection Committee referred the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report, citing the following reasons for referral/principal issues for consideration:
The bill proposes changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to:
The committee recognised that considerable consultation has gone on prior to the introduction of this bill to the House, and that the provisions proposed are the enactment of recommendations made by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in its inquiry into the exposure draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012. I take this opportunity to particularly thank Senator Trish Crossin and her committee for their great work in that inquiry. The Senate committee concluded that there was unanimous agreement that the Sex Discrimination Act be amended to extend protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, and for same-sex de facto couples.
The committee has recommended that the House of Representatives pass this bill because it is of the view that the protection of all Australians from discrimination is a core matter of social justice. The committee considers that the proposed legislative changes are long overdue and will address critical gaps in the current antidiscrimination legal framework.
Given the extensive consultation that has taken place regarding the measures contained in this bill, and the expectation that the final sitting day of the 43rd Parliament will be 27 June 2013, this committee urges the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to conclude its deliberations into this bill as a matter of urgency so that the bill may be considered by both Houses prior to the parliament rising for the election. The changes proposed by this bill are too important to be delayed for people who remain vulnerable and unprotected from discrimination.
I thank the deputy chair, the member for Pearce, and the other members of the committee for their participation. I thank the secretariat. I commend the committee's report to the House.
by leave—I support the words of the chair of the committee, the member for Moreton, on this particular report, and I thank members of the committee who have deliberated on it. During the government's initial attempt to consolidate all antidiscrimination legislation under one act, it came to light that sexuality based discrimination had not been addressed in Commonwealth law. Addressing this shortcoming is necessary, and as a result the government has proposed a separate bill which was the subject of the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee's inquiry. From that inquiry, the committee has unanimously recommended the passage of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013. The bill will extend the protection from discrimination to the new grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status and extend the existing ground of 'marital status' to 'marital or relationship status' to provide protection from discrimination for same-sex de facto couples.
No submissions were necessary as, when the exposure draft of the consolidated antidiscrimination legislation was inquired into, more than 3,000 submissions were received by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. Whilst the coalition opposed a consolidated antidiscrimination bill for a number of different reasons, the coalition senators' dissenting report in regard to that inquiry did note an area for reform, and I think it is worth repeating here. It reads:
… Coalition senators were impressed with one part of the evidence before the inquiry—that from the GLBTI community, who pointed out that none of the Commonwealth Acts which deal with anti-discrimination law extend to sexuality-based discrimination. This is, in our view, an obvious gap, which should be addressed. People in that category are no doubt vulnerable to unfair discrimination. Discrimination against members of that community is unacceptable by modern community standards, and is reflected in the removal in 2008—on a bipartisan basis—of all discriminatory treatment from Commonwealth legislation. It is also consistent with the policy which the Coalition took to the 2010 election. A simple amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act, which includes sexuality (or, for completeness, identity as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex person) as a protected attribute, would overcome that lacuna.
The committee is of the view that the protection of citizens from discrimination is a core matter of social justice and the proposed legislative change will address the gaps in the current antidiscrimination legal framework. It is a necessary and overdue change, and for that reason the committee is also calling upon the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to try and conclude its deliberations so that this bill may be considered by both houses before the forthcoming election, as my colleague the member for Moreton said.