Govt reportedly drops discrimination bill
AAPUpdated March 20, 2013, 9:28 am
The federal government’s decision to put its proposed anti-discrimination laws on hold has been welcomed by the Institute of Public Affairs.
The conservative think tank heralded the move, reported in The Australian on Wednesday, as a victory for free speech.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was reported as saying the government could not proceed with plans introduced by his predecessor Nicola Roxon to draw five existing statutes under a single piece of legislation.
The statutes covering age, disability, race, sex and other forms of discrimination were to be consolidated, with the most controversial change relating to the onus of proof.
The government could not proceed with the draft bill at this time and would be sending it back to the attorney-general’s department for more work, Mr Dreyfus told The Australian.
The IPA said it was “outrageous” the government would make it illegal to offend someone because of their political opinion.
The think tank said reversing the onus of proof was another “fundamental problem” and the decision to withdraw the legislation entirely instead of attempting to amend it was the right move.
Under the proposed changes, after the complainant established a prima facie case of discrimination, the respondent would then have to show the action was justified or didn’t amount to discrimination.
The IPA has argued the onus of proof should remain on the person making the accusation as it was often very difficult to prove innocence.
The Australian Greens described the decision as nonsensical, saying Labor had their support to push the changes through parliament.
“Labor has lost the political will to protect human rights,” leader Christine Milne said.
The purpose of the changes was to raise protections to the highest standard and make discrimination claims clear and simple, she said.
“So why has Labor turned tail and given up on equality again?” Senator Milne said.