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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4316

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) (1:20 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank Senator Fifield for his contribution and the support of the Liberal-National Party for this legislation. The amendments in the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our antidiscrimination system. There has been broad support for these amendments in both chambers.

This bill makes changes that have been reviewed and carefully considered not only by the government but also by respected bodies including the Productivity Commission, in its 2004 review of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992; the Australian Law Reform Commission; and committees of this parliament. Key amendments in the bill will clarify the obligation of employers, service providers and others to remove discriminatory barriers for people with disabilities.

Other important amendments in the bill include removing the ‘dominant reason’ test from the Age Discrimination Act 2004 and amending the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 to formally change the name of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The bill was recently the subject of an inquiry and report by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I am pleased to report to the Senate that the committee recommended that it be passed subject to an amendment in paragraph 30(3)(a) to clarify the onus of proof in cases involving unlawful requests for information. The government accepts the merits of the Senate committee’s recommendation and I can foreshadow that in the committee stage of this bill the government will move a minor amendment along these lines. The proposed amendment puts beyond doubt that the evidence must be provided under section 30 and that there was no unlawful purpose for which the information was sought.

The committee also made four other substantive recommendations of a more general nature which the government accepts in principle and to which it will give further consideration. Once again I thank Senator Fifield for his contribution to the debate and his support for the bill. The bill is another step towards ensuring our laws continue to promote equality, equal opportunity and a fair go for people with disability. It does so in a practical and measured way, and I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.