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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4200


Senator SPINDLER (7.18 p.m.) —I move:

Clause 4, page 3, proposed paragraph 3(g), line 2, after "colour, sex," insert "sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability".

This amendment, together with the other amendments in this group—amendments 1 to 5—is directed towards inserting sexual preference, age and physical or mental disability as grounds on which discrimination is prohibited in an employment situation. These amendments also seek to insert sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability as grounds on which dismissal is prohibited. These provisions will also be reflected in enterprise agreements which will be concluded. I will quote from a magnificent and detailed opinion that I have received from Anthony Morris QC, who has advised on the constitutional validity of these provisions. After discussing why people with a particular sexual preference should not be discriminated against and why in past years they have been discriminated against, he says:

In conclusion, one returns ultimately to the most compelling question whether there is any justification to discriminate against a particular group of people in society simply because their behaviour is different from that of the majority, in so far as they have a predisposed sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. Our society has matured to the extent that other forms of discrimination, sexual, racial or ethnic, religious and so on are widely regarded as unacceptable and are prohibited by law. No thinking person can seriously argue that discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference is any less odious than any other form of arbitrary discrimination.

On the other points, age and physical or mental disability, I went into some detail in the second reading debate, citing numerous cases in employment of complaints being lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, on a state by state basis, about discrimination in employment suffered by people purely on the grounds of age or a particular disability.

  In echoing the paragraph that I quoted from the opinion of Mr Anthony Morris QC, I would like to add that not only have we reached a stage where we are mature and sensible enough but also we are civilised enough as a society to ensure that such discrimination does not take place.