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Friday, 16 December 1983
Page: 3951

Senator HARRADINE(9.49) —To refresh the memory of the Committee, the provisions of clauses 5 and 6 outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sex and marital status. The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition is to incorporate the words 'and the less favourable treatment is not reasonable in the circumstances'. I draw the attention of the Committee to the comments that were made by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Ryan) on Tuesday evening when we were last discussing this matter. The Minister, in her responses to the questions that were asked, used the word 'reasonable'. Quite clearly, that is the only way that these measures can be truly anti-discrimination measures; in other words, to ensure that these measures are not used for ulterior purposes.

The example I gave of the possible operation of clause 6, which deals with discrimination on the ground of marital status, has not been properly answered by the Minister. Because the definition of martial status includes the de facto spouse of another person, and because that then in turn places marital status, for the purpose of this clause, at the same level and on the same status as a bona fide marriage relationship, it creates and will create problems. As I indicated on the previous occasion, the United Nations Convention was not intended to do that. It was not intended to palce a de facto relationship on the same basis as a bona fide marriage relationship.

I draw the Committee's attention again to the possible effect of this clause on , for example, an owner of a hotel in a country town in which there may be two hotels. In a number of towns I know, there are more hotels than residences; but I just take as an example the more typical country town, perhaps, in which there are two hotels. Those hotels are the centre for the social life of the community . Let us say, for example, that the hotel-keeper wanted to go away and wanted to ensure that his hotel was properly cared for and was properly run as the social centre of the town and that he gave the hotel charge to a manager. Let us suppose that the manager is a married man in the town and that whilst the hotel- keeper is away, he shacks up with a barmaid. Under this measure, the hotel- keeper cannot, in those circumstances and for that reason, sack the manager.

Senator Georges —The licensing authority would, though.

Senator HARRADINE —No; the licensing authority cannot, under this measure.

Senator Georges —The licensing authority has a right over what happens in that hotel.

Senator HARRADINE —Oh no. The licensing authority, under this measure, is covered by this measure. That is the point. The Crown is bound. In those circumstances, the hotel-keeper, under this measure, would not be able to sack the manager. The licensing authority could do nothing about it, and the hotel- keeper would lose his business because all the locals would go down to Jack Ryan 's to engage in their social life there. Surely this is not a matter with which this Bill was designed to interfere; not with those sorts of rights and responsibilities. That is one of the reasons why I sought to have deleted from the definition of 'marital status' the aspect of a de facto spouse. Unfortunately, I received no support from the Opposition, the Liberal Party or the National Party.

Senator Haines —You did not get any from me, unless you meant to include me in the Opposition.

Senator HARRADINE —No, I certainly did not get any support from Senator Haines or the Australian Democrats. I did not expect it. But these are the aspects of the measure that have not been fully considered. When I was attempting to explain the situation, I am afraid that the Committee was discussing matters individually with other people and not a great deal of attention was being paid to the matters that were raised at that particular stage. In particular I refer to the matter that I alone can raise in this chamber because I was the only one from this chamber who was present-that is, the matter relating to the development of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the drafts of the United Nations Convention. No mention was made of de facto spouse being given the same status as married spouse under the marital status provisions of the United Nations Convention. I again raise that matter.

To retrieve the situation somewhat, it is necessary to support the Opposition's amendment. I do support the Opposition's amendment. To retrieve it further, it will be necessary subsequently, although it will not overcome the whole problem because of the matters that have just been raised, to place in a conscientious objection clause not specifically for the de facto situation but, more importantly, for greater and graver issues that will arise as a result of this legislation. I support the proposal by the Opposition to add at the appropriate parts of clauses 5 and 6 the words 'and the less favourable treatment is not reasonable in the circumstances'.