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Govt failed to consult on discrimination laws: lawyers

Govt failed to consult on discrimination laws: lawyers

Victorian lawyers say the government has watered down the Equal Opportunity Act, and has accused it of "muzzling" the body's Commissioner.

VICTORIAN lawyers say the government has watered down the Equal Opportunity Act, and has accused it of "muzzling" the body's Commissioner.  

The Law Institute of Victoria has spoken out against new amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 introduced by the Victorian Government.

Religious schools will be able to reject teachers belonging to different faiths under the Baillieu Government's changes to the laws. 

Christian schools will be able to ban single-parent teachers or others not fitting their beliefs. Jewish and Islamic schools will be able to hire only those teachers who uphold their values. 

This comes after strict equal opportunity laws that banned discrimination against teachers were initiated by the Brumby government last year. They were to take fact 1 August. But the Coalition's overturning of the laws allows religious organisation to employ only staff who share the beliefs of their communities.

LIV president Caroline Counsel says the Government has failed to consult with the Victorian community, and silenced the Equal Opportunity Commissioner.  

“The Government has muzzled the powers of our Equal Opportunity Commissioner to investigate serious systemic workplace discrimination as well as endorsing employment discrimination in religious schools,” Counsel said.

“This is a backward step for equal opportunity and fair employment practices."

Under proposals introduced by the previous Government, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner would have had the power to address serious discrimination affecting organisations as a whole, and not just individuals.

It would have no longer required vulnerable individuals to bring a complaint, but would have enabled the Commissioner to work constructively with organisations to assist them in promoting equity, the LIV said in a statement. 

In a submission last year, the LIV also supported the “inherent requirements test” which would have forced religious organisations including schools to show that employment discrimination was necessary to fulfil the requirements of the job.

This has also been removed from the Bill.

“We believe it is important to balance the right to freedom of religious belief with the right to equality,” Counsel said.

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Govt failed to consult on discrimination laws: lawyers
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