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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3707

Senator HARRADINE(10.21) — I just want to comment on one of the matters which have been raised. I feel that prying into people's private lives to see whether they will get pregnant is not something which employers should be entitled to do. I just raise that matter; I do not think it was suggested by one of the honourable senators who entered the debate. I acknowledge what the Minister said in response to my question about the police motor cyclist on the BMW 1000. In effect, she said that the decision by the superintendent was made because picking up the motor-bike was a relevant requirement in the circumstances of that job. I accept that. That is why I believe that the amendment put forward by the Opposition could probably be improved if it included the words 'and the less favourable treatment is not reasonably relevant in the circumstances'. That would virtually place into the legislation what the Minister has said in answer to my question.

I go one step further. That would deal with clause 5, which deals with sex discrimination, but as I understand it we are also dealing with clause 6, which deals with discrimination on the ground of marital status. Having regard to the definition of marital status, clause 6 clearly prevents an employer from preferring a married couple to a de facto couple in all matters covered by the legislation, including matters of employment, accommodation and education except , of course, where there are subsequent exemptions. It does so because, in the words of this clause, a characteristic that appertains generally to persons having the marital status of a de facto is, by definition of clause 4, that the persons are living as husband and wife outside of marriage and, on the view of a substantial number of people within Australia, are therefore regularly engaged in fornication and adultery. Accordingly, we should not prefer a married couple to a de facto couple on the grounds that the de facto couple was regularly committing fornication and adultery and would be a source of scandal in a work situation. I refer honourable senators to the example of a country hotel. It may well be that a hotel proprietor wishes to employ a married couple to run the hotel. Under this legislation, he is prevented from doing this and also is branded as a discriminator if he does not employ a de facto couple to run the hotel.

Senator Jack Evans —Even if they are not as good as the married couple? He has to employ the less capable people because they are de facto. That is what you said.

Senator HARRADINE —No, I did not.

Senator Jack Evans —I am sorry. That is precisely what you said. That is what I am trying to clarify.

Senator HARRADINE —No, I did not say that.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! I ask for less direct interchange and more talking through the Chair.

Senator HARRADINE —No, I did not say that at all. What I said was that he wants to employ a married couple. First, he cannot advertise for a married couple to run the hotel and, secondly, if he advertises for a couple to run the hotel and gets an application from a de facto couple whose qualifications are excellent, and he refuses to give them the job, under this legislation he will be a discriminator. That is what I am saying.

Senator Crowley —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. I have practised, like most people, a fair effort in trying to listen tonight but I draw your attention to Standing Order 421 and ask whether you regard this contribution as tediously repetitious.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! There is no point of order. Senator Harradine is dealing with fundamental issues concerned with the legislation. He is in order.

Senator HARRADINE —I am trying to give examples of what happens in many country towns throughout the length and breadth of Australia.

Senator Zakharov —No one has denied that. This is the twentieth century.

Senator HARRADINE —I am talking of a number of country hotels the proprietors of which might wish to employ married couples. It might be detrimental to the business of the proprietor to employ a de facto couple to run the hotel; yet this Bill enforces the Government's view on that proprietor and forces him to employ the de facto couple. Frankly, the law should not deny a prospective employer the right to employ persons and to discriminate in favour of certain persons on the ground of what is relevant in the circumstances. I think the Minister mentioned those words 'relevant in the circumstances'. Whilst I believe that the Opposition's amendment is probably adequate, I would have picked up what the Minister said and used the words 'reasonably relevant in the circumstances' rather than 'reasonable in the circumstances'.