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Response to Discussion Paper: Priorities for federal discrimination law reform

The submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in response to the Discussion Paper: Priorities for federal discrimination law reform (Discussion Paper) was prepared by the Law Council. 

On 14 December 2018, the AHRC announced a major project, Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights (Inquiry), to identify reform proposals to better protect human rights in Australia. On 13 November 2019, the Law Council provided the AHRC with a comprehensive submission in response to the Inquiry’s Issues Paper.

As part of the overall consultation, the AHRC is releasing a series of separate technical papers that focus on specific law reform issues. The first of these is the Discussion Paper, which sets out the AHRC’s preliminary views on the priorities for federal discrimination law reform. The Law Council welcomes the AHRC’s Discussion Paper as an important part of facilitating consultations with civil society to provide advice back to the Australian Government.

The Discussion Paper identifies the need for reform, the principles that should guide it, and the 11 major priority areas for reform to ensure effective protection against discrimination at the federal level. Discussion questions attached to each proposal are addressed by the Law Council in this submission.

The Law Council supports reforms to Australia’s federal anti-discrimination law framework, provided that this process preserves or enhances existing protections against discrimination and removes the regulatory burden on business. It views the current inquiry as an opportunity to address some of the limitations of the current legislation identified as part of the government’s consolidation process initiated in 2012.

Its central recommendation in this submission concerns the consolidation of existing federal anti-discrimination laws into a single federal act. However, it stresses that this should not be at the expense of lowering the protections based on Australia’s international obligations. Careful consideration should be given to retaining provisions that currently provide protection to specific grounds under the individual Acts.

You can read the full submission below. 

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