Senate Committee Report Adopts ALHR’s Recommendations

February 28, 2013

Media release
For immediate release 28 February 2013

Senate Committee Report Adopts ALHR’s Recommendations

“By supporting the new Anti-Discrimination Bill and adopting our recommendations, the Senate Standing Committee has taken an important step towards a more equitable society for all Australians,” Stephen Keim, President of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), said today. “ALHR is pleased to see the Standing Committee’s report, released last week, endorse protections for the most vulnerable and recommend that the exceptions which allow religious organisations to discriminate be narrowed.”

The Committee’s Report may be accessed at this address:

Mr. Keim said: “It is satisfying to see support for the current protections against discrimination being broadened. Assuming the Government accepts the Standing Committee’s recommendations and the Bill passes into law, the intersex community, survivors of domestic violence and those with an irrelevant criminal record will enjoy protection from discrimination. These reforms will ensure that those that suffer abuse at home do not have to suffer again in public.’

‘It is also important that religious bodies do not get a green light to discriminate when they provide services to the general community,’ said Mr Keim. “Current Federal anti-discrimination laws provide religious organisations with a blanket exemption when it comes to discrimination. The Exposure Draft Bill strikes a more equitable balance between competing values. Although we all enjoy and appreciate freedom of religion, we should all enjoy freedom from discrimination as well. When seeking a school or aged care facility, all Australians have the right to be treated equally,’ added Mr Keim.

“The argument that religious organisations should be above the law when it comes to discrimination on grounds protected by law reminds me of an old sketch from the Frost report”, said Mr. Keim. “Ronnie Corbett, a small shop owner, is told that he has to pay billions of dollars in taxes to run Great Britain because all other commercial enterprises are owned and run by churches. Mr. Corbett, as the astounded shop owner, retorts by telling the tax collector to take his hands off Mr. Corbett’s altar”.

Australia has human rights obligations under international law and the Exposure Draft Bill will, if it comes into effect as recommended by the Committee, take us a step closer to meeting those obligations.

ALHR hopes to see the Draft Bill pass into law in the interests of creating a more just and equitable society for all Australians.

ALHR’s submission to the Inquiry can be accessed at: . It is no. 406 in the list of submissions on that page.

Media Contact: Stephen Keim SC, President

M: 0433 846 518