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Thursday, 30 May 1996
Page: 1380

Senator SPINDLER —I move:

That the following matters be referred to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee for inquiry and report by the first sitting day of March 1997:

(1)   The need to protect Australian citizens against discrimination and vilification on the grounds of their sexuality or transgender identity, as dealt with by the Sexuality Discrimination Bill 1995 [1996], with particular reference to Australia's international obligations in relation to sexuality discrimination and transgender identity and the action required to meet those obligations.

(2)   Measures which need to be taken to remove any legislative and administrative provisions which are currently discriminatory on the grounds of a person's sexuality or transgender identity.

(3)   The extent to which current legislation at a State level addresses discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or transgender identity and the extent to which Commonwealth legislation should take account of these provisions.

(4)   The appropriate scope of Commonwealth sexuality discrimination legislation and, in particular, the need for provisions including, but not limited to, the areas of:

   (a)   public education;

   (b)   appropriate exemptions;

   (c)   dispute resolution;

   (d)   remedies;

   (e)   the availability of class actions; and

   (f)   review of the legislation.

(5)   The extent to which the Sexuality Discrimination Bill 1995 [1996] effectively addresses the issues of sexuality and transgender discrimination and vilification and the nature of any amendments required to make it more effective.

I seek leave to make a brief two-minute statement.

Senator Vanstone —We are happy for this motion to be made formal, but we do not want a long debate. If Senator Spindler sticks to two minutes, that is fine.

Senator Faulkner —That is all he has asked leave for. We will give him leave to speak for two minutes.

Senator Vanstone —I am just making the point clear so it does not go on. We can make it longer if you want to interrupt me. I am only trying to be helpful here. If you want to interrupt, we can take longer by arguing about it. I simply make the point that two minutes is fine but, in addition to that two minutes being fine, depending on the nature of Senator Spindler's remarks other people may want to follow. Perhaps he could bear that in mind and get through with his two minutes easily.

Leave granted.

Senator SPINDLER —The issue of discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and transgender identity is an important challenge facing our society. The preparation of the bill has occupied much of my time during 1995. I wish to place on record my gratitude to Deputy Clerk Peter O'Keeffe for his patience and effective assistance throughout that time. The bill has been acknowledged as being comprehensive and well balanced between the competing demands of what our community will accept at this stage and the essential justice of the principle that all citizens should be treated as equal before the law.

In some ways, I would have preferred the bill to have been simply passed by all parties and by both houses. As it turned out, that was too much to expect. The advantage of it proceeding through this inquiry is that the consultation process will be continued in a very open and public way, leading hopefully to greater understanding of the issues and support for an improved piece of legislation. The terms of reference have been agreed by all parties in the Legal and Constitutional References Committee. I look forward to contributing to the deliberations of the committee, albeit from the other side of the table.

Question resolved in the affirmative.