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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3429


Senator POWELL(9.58) —The Australian Democrats support the Sex Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1986, which is the result of a review of legislation to bring it into line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. At the time we strongly supported the Sex Discrimination Act and amended it to strengthen it. We should remember what the Sex Discrimination Act does. It declares discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status and pregnancy to be unlawful in a number of important areas of community life. Most of the proposals in the Bill, interestingly enough, remove provisions in previous legislation which discriminate against men. One of the amendments proposed by the Opposition, which we will not be supporting, appears to refuse the removal of certain discrimination against men. I find that quite odd. Society has been moving to remove areas of discrimination, in large measure to place women who have been discriminated against in a better position. With this proposed amendment the Opposition appears not to want to even up the balance.

We will not be supporting the other amendments to be moved by the Opposition to turn back from the definition of `de facto spouse' in the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act. We supported the definition at the time and continue to support it. The Opposition amendments were dropped on us out of the blue late in the proceedings. Senator Walters will move later to amend section 42 of the Sex Discrimination Act. We will not support her amendment because one of the difficulties with it is that Senator Walters appears not to want to recognise that there is a balance in size, weight and physique of young people under 12 years of age which allows girls, for one of the few times in their lives, an opportunity to see themselves as equal and to be equal in what is, in our culture in particular, a very important part of community life-sport. There are few enough areas in our culture where girls get the opportunity to see themselves as equal, to be in the action in an equal sense. We believe that should be in place and we have been responsible for that in the Act itself. That particular provision in section 42 was not opposed at the time of the 1984 Act by either side of the House, so we will not be supporting its removal at this point. It is encouraging that the review has looked into some legis- lation which was exempt under the Sex Discrimination Act, and that is the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act. It was not necessary for that Act to be reviewed. However, it was, and we believe that is to be commended. We support this legislation as we supported the original Sex Discrimination Bill in 1984. We shall not be supporting the amendments which will come before us later.