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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2966


Senator LEWIS(10.24) —Tonight the Senate is debating the Government's third go at the Sex Discrimination Bill. I say 'third go' because originally we were confronted with a Bill which I think even the Government now admits was an unbelievable disgrace in drafting legislation. Notwithstanding the open support right throughout the nation, indeed in this Parliament and in this chamber by a number of people who apparently supported it on principle, without any consideration of its terminology, who put themselves out on a limb in open and complete support for that Bill, the Governmment then brought down an amended version of the Bill with 53 of its own amendments. I think that at that stage the Opposition parties had some 28 or so amendments to move. I think that Senator Harradine had about 20 or 30 amendments to move and the Australian Democrats had a similar number of amendments to move. The Government, having brought down that amended Bill, introduced today, as I said, the third go at it. Again, the Government has introduced a large number of additional amendments which deal in particular with some of the civil rights matters which were of grave concern to so many of us. In particular I refer to the reversal of the onus of proof and the self-incrimination provisions.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Government has now had three goes at this Bill, the Government must acknowledge that out in the community there is a deep concern about the Bill, an abstract concern about the principles of the Bill and the motives of those who have actively promoted it, notwithstanding all of its defects. I believe, quite rightly, that there should be this abstract deep concern about the Bill. I say that for many reasons. I draw the Senate's attention to a statement made by a member of the Human Rights Commission, apparently at an address to a women's electoral lobby seminar held in Canberra. The seminar must have been held on the weekend preceding 31 October. The report was in the newspaper on Monday, 31 October. This women, Norma Ford, is a member of the Human Rights Commission. A newspaper quotes her as saying--


Senator Missen —A splendid woman.


Senator LEWIS —Senator Missen says that she is a splendid woman. It is interesting to hear what this splendid woman had to say about what she will do with regard to this legislation. She said:

. . . perhaps I can give some reassurance-

I interpose by saying that apparently some people had expressed disappointment at what they alleged were the weaknesses in the legislation. She said:

. . . perhaps I can give some reassurance as to the way this legislation will be implemented.

She is the one who knows because she will implement the legislation. She went on :

Just as Al Grassby, the former Commissioner for Community Relations, took the Racial Discrimination Act and applied it fully and vigorously-

I reiterate those words-

fully and vigorously . . . so we too can apply this legislation to its fullest extent . . . It is only by applying legislation vigorously that one can determine whether an Act is an effective or ineffective piece of legislation.

I have every confidence that the Sex Discrimination Bill can be used as the basis to develop policy in Australia in this area.

This is the future administrator of the Bill talking about what she and the Human Rights Commission will do with this legislation when it is passed. Regardless of what the legislation says and regardless of what the Parliament says, she intends to use this legislation vigorously in order to achieve a result which will be satisfactory to this women's electoral lobby group which criticised the Bill's weaknesses. She said:

I have every confidence that the Sex Discrimination Bill can be used as the basis to develop policy in Australia in this area. This legislation will enable the commission to firmly oppose power groups-

I do not know what she is talking about. I would like her to explain it to me--


Senator Primmer —I do.


Senator LEWIS —She continued:

. . . to firmly oppose power groups and structures which discriminate against people on the basis of sex.

Senator Primmer said he knows what it means. I take it it has something to do with the trade union movement. When I read this newspaper article the words ' Sieg Heil' came to mind: Freedom will be enforced; freedom will be vigorously enforced; we will absolutely insist on freedom; we will drive freedom right through; we must have freedom! She was saying that this legislation will be vigorously applied. Is it any wonder that there are people out there in the community who are deeply and gravely concerned about the principles of this Bill , about the motives of this Bill and about the motives of the people who will be implementing this legislation. The people of Australia seek equal opportunity. Of course they do, but they seek to live in a country in which we have the right to do as we wish and not have people such as this vigorously enforcing freedom upon us.

Debate interrupted.