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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3697

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women)(9.13) -I repeat that the inclusion of de factor status as a marital status along with single, separated and divorced, does not change that status legally. The Sex Discrimination Bill does not legalise a defacto relationship. What it does is require that people in a de facto relationship shall not be treated differently from people in a different marital relationship for the purposes described under this legislation. Senator Harradine is quite right when he says that if a person has a house to let he or she should not use the marital status of an applicant for that accommodation as a ground for treating that applicant less favourably than he or she would an applicant of another marital status. That is what the Bill is about.

If a person sets up a business, the marital status of a client is not relevant in most cases. Similarly in the example that Senator Harradine used of a hotel owner in the business of letting accommodation. The access of a person to that service should not be determined by that person's marital status. It is quite a different matter to take a lodger into the home, it is quite a different matter for people in a group house who would be living with the tenant. There are exemptions to that to which Senator Harradine might like to address his attention. But in relation to a commercial enterprise-a house to let or rooms to let in an hotel-the legislation says that it is not right to refuse a person commercial service on the grounds of the marital status of the person applying. That is the intention of the Bill. It is not the business of someone letting property or someone renting rooms in a hotel to concern himself or herself with the marital status of the person involved. Under those circumstances it is discriminatory to treat less favourably a person simply on the grounds of his or her marital status.

This Bill does not alter a person's right to hold a view about marriage or about people who live in de facto relationships. Such views can be held. I think that Senator Martin put very clearly tonight the distinction between people being able to hold a view about marriage and people being able to deny unfairly a good or a service to that person. Perhaps it will help Senator Harradine if I remind him of the provisions of the Racial Discriminaion Act. That Act does not require people to say that a person of one race is the same as a person of another race. A person of the Aboriginal race is not the same as a person of the European race. The legislation says that a person of the Aboriginal race shall not be treated differently from or less favourably than a person of the European race. It is a question of establishing the rights of people to certain publicly provided goods and services.

It is the view of our Government that in the areas covered by the legislation those rights should not be eroded because of a person's marital status. So if somebody is running a hotel business marital status ought not to be grounds for treating a customer less favourably than he would otherwise be treated. I simply repeat-and I hope that Senator Harradine can accept this-that the Bill does not change de facto status. It does not legalise it. It does not say that it is the same as marital status. It does not affect anybody's right-Senator Harradine's or anyone else's-to hold his private, personal views about marriage and the status of people who are not married. It simply says that in regard to certain publicly provided goods and services marital status-be it de facto, separated, divorced or married-should not be used as a reason for treating a person less favourably than he would otherwise be treated.