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Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018

The submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 was prepared by the Law Council. 

The Law Council considers that the Committee’s inquiry must be based on an understanding of Australia’s relevant international human rights obligations, particularly with respect to: the freedom to manifest one’s religion; the right to equality and non-discrimination; and the obligation to ensure that in all actions concerning children, the best interest of the child is a primary consideration.

While some human rights are absolute, in other cases, limitations on human rights are possible provided that certain standards are met. In such cases, fundamental rights and freedoms will frequently need to be balanced against each other. In the current context, the right of a person to exercise his or her freedom of religion must be balanced against the rights and freedoms of persons who will be impacted by that exercise. While freedom of religion is a fundamental human right which should be protected under law, the manifestation of religion should not be protected at the expense of other rights and freedoms. In this respect, rights and freedoms should be protected and balanced in a coherent legal framework.

The Law Council considers that ideally, any anti-discrimination legislative reforms should be approached in a comprehensive rather than piecemeal manner. It is important not only to have regard to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA) provisions, but also to opportunities to consolidate and strengthen federal protections against discrimination on the basis of religion, and other relevant federal legislative provisions. The Law Council considers that in line with any reforms, an improved mechanism which provides for the enforcement of rights in accordance with international human rights law is needed, such as a national human rights act. This would also help to overcome the current fragmented approach to federal antidiscrimination legislation.

You can read the full submission below.

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