Latest campaign: strengthening our anti-discrimination laws

Posted by
19th January 2013

Discrimination Hero

You might have already read about the teacher who, after deciding to have a child, was fired by the school she taught at just because she wasn’t married.[1]

She’s not alone. If you or someone you care about is a single parent, gay, divorced, transexual or have ever been accused of a crime then you could find yourself being discriminated against with no legal right to fight back.

We can stop this and ensure all Australians receive the protections they deserve.

Right now a bill to protect all Australians from discrimination is in draft form under review by the Government. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has the power to make the changes necessary to ensure it protects all Australians regardless of race, sex, age, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Will you take a minute to read about the important changes that need to happen and then ask Nicola Roxon to strengthen the bill?

These laws are important because they will affect you and every person you know. The proposed legislation is well worth getting over the line – for the first time in Commonwealth law there will be legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of the human rights and legal community agree that this piece of legislation is a vast improvement on the previous set of laws and offers broader human rights protections for vulnerable Australians.

BUT, we can’t just ignore the glaring areas that still need work, including the exemption for religious groups to discriminate despite receiving Government funding to provide services. If we don’t use this once in a generation opportunity to ensure that every Australian can make a contribution and have the opportunities that they deserve we may not have the chance again for a very long time.

Nicola Roxon needs to know that while the improvements they have made to the bill are good, there are areas that still need strengthening. Will you write to Nicola Roxon, and ask her to ensure the proposed anti-discrimination legislation protects all Australians?

Creating the kind of strong, healthy and cohesive communities we all want to live in requires that we continue to push for better human rights. If we don’t do everything we can right now to strengthen and pass this bill before the Federal election, it is in real danger of never making it over the line. The opposition has already promised to gut these important protections if they get elected. Let’s get it right and fight for something we can be proud of.

Thanks for standing up for human rights,
The GetUp team.

PS – This is not an easy issue to get your head around and recent media coverage – heavily influenced by a concerted lobbying effort by the conservative media, some vocal religious groups and the opposition – is making a complex subject even more convoluted. We’ve tried to fix that. Over the past two weeks we’ve spoken with leading human rights advocates, policy makers and legal experts in order to understand exactly what’s on the table and how it differs from what already exists. We’ve prepared an FAQ and a position paper that dispels the misinformation being put out there and clarifies what needs to happen to achieve the best possible outcome for human rights. Click here to learn more:

[1] Teacher sacked over pregnancy, Brisbane Times, 1 May 2012.

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  • Nikkoh

    Nicola Roxon Is insane,

    this is all about silencing the media and freedom of speech, nothing
    else. How can we trust the labor government in anything they say, Julia
    Gillard just Sacked a white woman who is a Labour Member, who has held a Position for
    15 years, who is also highly skilled to do the Job by replacing her with a
    Black woman who is not a member of the labor government and has absolutely no
    experience what so ever.

    If this is not discrimination then I don’t know what
    else is. She is basically sacking Crossin because she is not black the one thing
    that Julia needs, a black member to gain more aboriginal votes. It’s an appalling
    decision by Gillard. She is also a sexis discriminating against men because a
    better choice would have been Warren Mundine who is a highly intelligent black man and an actual member of the Labor

  • Anonymous

    Political rhetoric aside, I assume from your comments against the concept of discrimination that you support a formal legal framework preventing discrimination?

    Also, as an aside, I’m not really sure that this has anything to do with free speech as it relates to the media. I can’t seem to find much in the way of discrimination lawsuits against the media in relation to their output. It’s usually defamation, which is a different matter altogether.

    For example, calling Nicola Roxon insane is defamation. Refusing to employ her due to being female (among other groupings a person could be placed in though no fault of their own) is discrimination.

  • opus est

    I agree, that it was an appalling decision by Julia to override the pre-selection process to sack an experienced, loyal member of her party to push forward a person of no proven political experience nor public profile beyond previous sporting prowess. One can think of no valid reason for this, beyond political expediency and the hope of attracting aboriginal votes. It is discrimination at its worst. Most of us abhor racial discrimination in any of its forms and just because, in this instance, it works against a white person, does not change its ugly face. Nikkoh’s comment that a better candidate, in Warren Mundine, is available, though valid, would still not justify such an act.

    The proposed Bill is a move in the right direction but needs strengthening so that this sort of injustice is no longer allowed.

  • Nikkoh

    “I assume from your comments against the concept of discrimination that
    you support a formal legal framework preventing discrimination?”

    Yeah i suppose i do then aye. But not the way Nicola Roxon wants to do it and i no longer trust Julia She sounds more and more like a dictator, she plays so dirty i can’t help what’s in it for them.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the bill needs strengthening, though I do question your (or mine or Nikkoh’s) ability to know all aspects of the decision.

    Still, the reasons are of little consequence really. As with most things, people will make up their own minds and hopefully someone somewhere learns a lesson from it.

    I think the important thing must be to stay focused on our ability to strengthen this thing while we have the chance.

  • Anonymous

    Fair call. I was just interested if you were for or against strengthening of discrimination laws.

    Perhaps you should write the letter and state what you would have liked to have seen in the bill. I figure a voice in the crowd is better than no voice at all.

  • Fred

    These proposals are a full frontal assault on freedom of speech and must be scrapped.

  • Jack Smithers

    These proposals are anti-free speech and must be stopped.

  • Anonymous

    Please explain exactly how these laws are in opposition to freedom of speech.

  • Anonymous

    Although you are probably Fred, I once again ask you to explain exactly how these laws are in opposition to freedom of speech.

  • Joseph Smaltz

    The definition of “discrimination” is too vague in the document.

  • Anonymous

    Ok. I’m not sure that your response really answers the question. In what way does a vague definition of “discrimination” impact freedom of speech, given that freedom of speech provides no right to defame or slander a person or group of people under any criteria?

  • Fred

    Well for example if i was to say it is wrong that Muslims kill gay people (In Saudi Arabaia, Iran, many others) and the Quran is therefore a flawed book that would be discrimination.I would be the one up for charges.

  • Anonymous

    In what way is that discriminatory? You have not acted in a way which has grouped a set of people and singled them out for selective treatment. In fact, you don’t make any specific claim against anything other than a book.

    Pretty sure you’re safe there, new legislation or not.

  • Fred

    TWO of the cherished foundations of the Australian way of life are freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence. Changes are proposed which would undermine these.

    On November 20, the attorney general published a draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, which sets out to unify and consolidate five existing anti-discrimination acts. The draft goes much further. For many, all discrimination is now considered wrong.
    Some are disconcerted when it is pointed out that governments, societies and individuals regularly discriminate. Each person chooses her friends and decides who to avoid. We discriminate between friends and foes.

    Society discriminates between criminals and the law-abiding and imprisons some criminals. Society discriminates by choosing only the best students to study medicine or law and the best athletes to represent Australia.
    Governments choose which immigrants they will accept and those they expel. Discrimination is a regular and necessary part of daily life.

    Obviously not all discrimination is right. Some actions and statements are wrong and unjust. The question is how many of these should be illegal. Until 60 or 70 years ago job vacancy lists would sometimes explain that Catholics and Jews need not apply. Until 50 years ago Aborigines could not vote.
    All of this is wrong and legislation to prevent such injustice is appropriate.

    However Dr Daniel Mannix, once archbishop of Melbourne, used to explain that every person has a right to be foolish if he thinks it wise.
    We all have a right to unreasonable opinions, but no right to incite hatred, and no right to get our facts wrong.

    The proposed legislation extends the meaning of discrimination to include “unfavourable treatment”, “offending”, and “insulting”, perhaps even for some political opinions expressed in the workplace. All this is a step too far.
    Most Australians want to reject some politicians, even speak insultingly about them. Any law to prohibit this would be unworkable.

    Much more dangerous is the proposal to reverse the onus of proof so the person accused of discrimination has to prove his innocence. The principle that “a person is innocent until proved guilty” goes back to the 1790s.
    Complainants should have to make out their case and pay costs if their case fails.

    To reverse the onus of proof – even when it is called “shifting” – is dangerous and one step towards totalitarianism. All long journeys start with a few steps.

  • Anonymous

    Two issues with the article you appear to have lifted from The Telegraph.

    Firstly, this “shifting” is pretty much in line with other civil claims processes in Australia, where the people with the relevant information are the ones who are required to supply it.

    The examples of everyday discrimination are not really relevant. Freedom of association is not an issue here. Nobody is seeking to enforce friendship. Nobody is saying you cannot see someone as a foe. Criminals are imprisoned because they committed a crime, which is not discrimination because the accusation was proven in a court of law. It is not discrimination to accept only people with a specific acumen and proficiency to further study, any member of gender, race or other grouping could potentially achieve these prerequisite education levels. By my understanding, we do not reject immigrants based on a specific discriminatory group, but instead by individual assessment of each individual case.

    I’m still not seeing a real freedom of speech as an issue here. Expression of opinion is not in question except where the statement of these opinions infringes the right of another to not be harassed, ridiculed or intimidated. My understanding is that these are also enforced by the current laws, but that these new laws seek to simplify in order to make compliance easier.

    Overall, I think the majority of the article is misinformed, but even that is beside the point. This is a proposal. Comments and suggestions are currently sought. That is kind of the point of this article. If you have a problem with it, then you should write to Nicola Roxon and make your objections known.

    Oh … and it’s pretty lazy to just copy and paste articles. Either you have something to say or you don’t, and if you don’t then what is the point of the post?

  • Frehddy

    The article merely backed up my claim about how “discrimination” has been worded in the proposal.The definition of discrimination is too vague in the document.Besides pretty much every newspaper and talking head has been against this anti free speech proposal, GetUP! is the first group i have seen that is actively supporting it.

  • Anonymous

    The article may well have backed you up, however the article is simply a statement of opinion, and as I noted, still has some glaring errors which should really inform the opinion stated.

    Talking heads talk, that is what they do, but there is really no justification in letting them do your thinking for you.

    And I really think you should read the above article again. Getup seems to endorse an action but highlights what it believes to be significant flaws, and calls on all interested parties to voice their opinion.

    You clearly have an opinion, and Getup has advocated that you put your opinion down and make it heard by the powers that be while the option for change still exists. To be clear, they seem to directly advocate change to the proposed legislation. Your problem with Getup regarding this is what?

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