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NSW anti-discrimination law changes should be rejected, academic says

A law academic said changes to a complaints system in NSW anti-discrimination laws should be rejected for the sake of the rest of the country.

user iconNaomi Neilson 17 June 2020 SME Law
anti-discrimination law
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A Victorian University law academic has called for proposed changes to the complaints system in NSW anti-discrimination laws to be rejected as it is most likely to limit access to justice and exclude legitimate complaints from vulnerable people. 

Bill Swannie, who led the Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group submission for a NSW parliamentary inquiry, warned the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Complaints Handling) Bill 2020 would require that the president of the NSW-Discrimination Board to “decline” complaints that are “frivolous, misconceived or lacking in substance”. 

 
 

By doing so, Mr Swannie said the comments that were declined would not proceed to conciliation or a hearing by tribunal. This meant that disadvantaged people that these laws were meant to protect – including people who have experienced a disadvantage but could not speak much English to register a substantial complaint—were left out. 

“The bill would fundamentally shift the balance between preventing misuse of the [act], and allowing appropriate access to hearing, determination and remedies for members of groups who experience unlawful discrimination,” said Mr Swannie. 

“Indeed, the bill may be contrary to Australia’s human rights obligations by effectively denying access to a remedy for discrimination.” 

Mr Swannie said that if the bill passed, it would have significant implications for anti-discrimination laws in other jurisdictions, including Victoria who is currently considering similar changes. He added that the Anti-Discrimination Act 1997 (NSW) is currently providing several mechanisms for identifying any weak complaints. 

“We recommend the bill be rejected in its entirety,” Mr Swannie said.