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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3704

Senator HARRADINE(9.55) — Mr Chairman, I support the Opposition's amendment to these clauses. This amendment is to provide protection against sex discrimination and discrimination on the grounds of marital status, a requirement which is in the form of 'the less favourable treatment is not reasonable in the circumstances'. The same requirement is contained in clause 7 (1) (b), which is headed 'Discrimination on the ground of pregnancy'. It just so happens that that is the case. I believe that amendment is an eminently reasonable proposition. The test should in fact be whether the less favourable treatment was reasonable in the circumstances. Let me give honourable senators an example. Say a superintendent of the traffic police refuses to place a policewoman on the night shift patrol on a 1000cc BMW. The reason for that is that on the day shift the traffic police patrol the roads in twos or threes and know where each other is, but at a particular hour of the night or early morning the policeman or the policewoman may be required to attend an accident at which the 1000cc BMW falls over. It would be virtually impossible for the policewoman to pick the BMW up.

Senator Giles —Oh, rubbish.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Giles says: 'Oh, rubbish'. We are talking about the average policewoman. Some of them I know are quite petite and it is almost a pleasure to be booked by them. But we are talking in a serious vein whereby a superintendent says that he cannot have a policewoman on the night shift. Under this legislation that is clearly discrimination on the grounds of her sex, but everyone in this Committee would agree that what the superintendent is doing is really protecting that policewoman. He is discriminating against her or for her, whichever way one likes. But if she feels that it is less favourable treatment, he can, as the discriminator, place before the Sex Discrimination Commissioner or the Human Rights Commission a defence for his action that the less favourable treatment is not reasonable in the circumstances. The example I have just given of the police superintendent could apply in this city of Canberra.

I believe, because of further matters that we will be discussing later in this Sex Discrimination Bill 1983 (No. 2), which refer to the rather wide ranging powers of the Human Rights Commission and of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner , it is important for a sense of reasonableness to be brought into these two clauses. That is why I support the Opposition's proposal. The spokesperson for the Opposition, Senator Martin, indicated that this amendment was not designed to upset the general thrust of anti-discrimination legislation. Of course it is not. It is simply placing in these clauses a definition similar to that contained in clause 7 (1) (b)-'the less favourable treatment is not reasonable in the circumstances'-which has been included by the Government.