Single federal Anti-Discrimination Act touted

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Single federal Anti-Discrimination Act touted

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner recently announced the government’s intention to streamline federal anti-discrimination legislation into one single comprehensive law.

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Attorney-General Robert McClelland, and Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner, recently announced the government’s intention to streamline federal anti-discrimination legislation into one single comprehensive law.
 
Currently, Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation is located in four separate and distinct laws: the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and the Age Discrimination Act 2004.
 
Good reasons for a single statute
 
A single Act will address current inconsistencies and make the system more user-friendly by clarifying relevant rights and obligations. It will also provide the opportunity to review the complaints handling process and the related role and functions of the Australian Human Rights Commission. There will be no diminution of existing protections currently available at the federal level.
 
'Effective anti-discrimination legislation is an important element in removing barriers to greater inclusion and participation in society. Anti-discrimination law should be clear and easy to understand because people shouldn’t need expensive legal advice to know their rights and obligations,' McClelland said
 
The project, to be delivered through a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership, will also provide the basis for the development of harmonised State and Territory anti-discrimination laws, and which is currently being progressed through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG).
 
'Better Regulation Ministerial Partnerships form a key part of the Government's deregulation agenda and ensure a disciplined and coordinated approach to delivering regulatory reform across government.'
 
'Consolidating all Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation into one Act will reduce the regulatory burden and drive greater efficiencies and improved productivity outcomes by reducing compliance costs for individuals and business, particularly small business,' Tanner said.
 
The Government intends to develop exposure draft legislation as the basis for consultation with stakeholders and the public.
 
ACCI comment
 
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) noted that the announcement of a single federal anti-discrimination Act to replace the existing separate Acts may provide opportunities for employers to consider aspects of discrimination law that are duplicitous, overlapping, or causing uncertainty for employers (ie forum shopping, or legal tests).
 
It also appears to be a first step towards the development of 'nationally harmonised laws across Australia', which has already been progressed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), ACCI added. 
 
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