A public discussion paper to seek community views on the consolidation of federal anti-discrimination laws was launched yesterday (22 September).
According to Attorney-General Robert McClelland, the five pieces of legislation which support the government's anti-discrimination policy - the Racial Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination Act and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act - are "inconsistent and unnecessarily complex".
"This [inconsistency] results in confusion in respect to obligations arising under the laws and can increase the cost for legal and specialist assistance," said McClelland. "The release of the discussion paper recognises the community's strong interest in the effective operation of anti-discrimination laws."
The consolidation project will provide an opportunity to clarify existing protections and address areas where there may be gaps, including seeking community views on the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (the committee) 2008 report into the effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as well as the committee's report into the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2009.
According to Minister for Finance and Deregulation Penny Wong, the project will also provide the opportunity to ensure consistency with other legislation, including the Fair Work Act.
"Bringing the laws together into a single, streamlined and comprehensive anti-discrimination act will improve the quality of the regulatory regime by simplifying and clarifying obligations and also reducing compliance costs for business, in training and educating staff on discrimination matters" said Wong.
The consultations will inform the development of draft legislation which will be released for public consultation in early 2012.
Submissions on the discussion paper can be made until 1 February 2012.