The public is being urged to share its views on changes to federal anti-discrimination laws.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Finance Minister Penny Wong today released a discussion paper on the proposed changes and have called on the public to have a say on consolidating Australia’s five anti-discrimination acts into one piece of legislation.

Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) spokesman Corey Irlam welcomed the opportunity to ensure sexual orientation and gender identity are included in any new laws.

“After 15 years discussing anti-discrimination laws, this consultation is an opportunity to move towards the finals steps for protection of GLBTI people,” Irlam told the Star Observer.

“ACE will digest the discussion paper and provide advice to the community on the key points in the coming weeks.

“In the meantime, we encourage people to get involved with the consultation.”

Australia’s anti-discrimination laws are split into separate acts covering race, sex, disability, age, and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered in federal anti-discrimination protections and LGBTI advocates have pushed for well over a decade for inclusion.

In ACE’s 2010 federal election survey, the Labor Party committed to introducing sexual orientation and gender identity into discrimination laws as part of its Human Rights Framework and its review of federal anti-discrimination laws.

In the consultation announcement Senator Wong confirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity will be included in any single new law.

“As part of this project, the Government is also delivering on its commitment to introduce prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Wong said.

“Bringing the laws together into a single, streamlined and comprehensive anti-discrimination act will improve the quality of the regulatory regime by simplifying and clarifying obligations and also reducing compliance costs for business in training and educating staff on discrimination matters.”

McClelland said the review is intended to make Australia’s anti-discrimination laws less complex and inconsistent.

“The release of the discussion paper recognises the community’s strong interest in the effective operation of anti-discrimination laws,” McClelland said.

The discussion paper does not cover same-sex marriage.

Submissions on the discussion paper will be accepted until February 1, 2012.

INFO: www.ag.gov.au/antidiscrimination

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