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Workplace Bill creates confusion, not clarity says Sex Discrimination Commissioner

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NEWS RELEASE H um an R ig h ts a n d E qual O p p o rtu n ity C o m m is s io n

Workplace Bill creates confusion, not clarity says Sex Discrimination Commissioner

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31 July 1996

While the new Workplace Relations Bill reflects the intention o f the Government to provide more flexible work arrangements for women, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Sue Walpole says she is concerned that the Bill in its current form cannot meet these objectives.

In appearing this afternoon on behalf o f the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) before the Senate Economics Reference Committee inquiring into the Workplace Relations Bill Ms Walpole said she was concerned the Bill created doubts and confusion in key areas o f industrial relations.

HREOC is concerned that:

• the principle o f equal remuneration between men and women for equal work is no longer entrenched as an employment standard, • the anti-discrimination provisions in the Bill may not be adequate to ensure that some groups such as women in part-time work, Indigenous people, people from non-English

speaking backgrounds and people with disabilities will not be disadvantaged, • pro rata award conditions for part-time workers such as access to training and promotion may not be part o f the minimum conditions as set out in the Bill, • on a very practical level the processes for taking action in the event o f a dispute between

an employer and an employee are confused and uncertain, creating the potential for increased levels o f litigation, and • the Bill eliminates the capacity to set general standards across the labour market that reflect the changing norms and expectations o f business and workers.

In addition, the body o f human rights instruments ratified by Australia sets out a very wide-ranging code o f behaviour for governments. In the current Act, Australia's international obligations to prohibit discrimination and to protect human rights are incorporated into the legislation as Schedules. The Workplace Relations Bill removes the scheduling o f most o f these Conventions, thus potentially reducing Australia's ability to address these issues in a broader industrial context.

For information/interviews or a Summary of HREOC's Submission please contact: Margie Cook Public Affairs Manager Phone: 015 672 630, 018 114 498

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Level 8 Piccadilly Tower 133 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW 2000 GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001 Telephone 02 284 9677 Facsimile: 02 284 9751 Enquiries: 1800 021 199 (toll free) Complaints Info Line: 02 284 9800 Teletypewriter: 1800 620 241 (toll free)