Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021; In Committee
I'll be brief, in the interests of time. The government acknowledges that the courts already have a broad discretion to award costs under their own legislation. This could include, for example, ordering parties to bear their own costs or pay another party's costs. There are mixed views on whether the model recommended by the Respect@Work report and adopted by this proposed amendment based on section 570 of the Fair Work Act will actually address the issues identified with the current model. For example, as part of the consultation process for the Respect@Work report, Victoria Legal Aid outlined their view that this model will still provide a disincentive for applicants, given it would not enable them to recover their costs even if they're successful.
As outlined in the government's response, the government will review costs procedures in sexual harassment matters to ensure they're fit for purpose, taking into account the issues raised by the report. As I've already articulated, my department does already liaise with the courts in consideration of this matter and it will continue to do so. I have also written to the federal courts to commend the report for their consideration and in particular the impact different cost orders may have on victims of sexual harassment.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (4) on sheet 1371 moved by Senator Waters be agreed to.