The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) has identified significant existing flaws with the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (the Act) after NSW One Nation leader, Mark Latham proposed changes to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
The Hon. Mark Latham MLC introduced the private members bill to the NSW Legislative Council in February this year in the hopes of amending the handling of complaints by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
Known as the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Complaint Handling) Bill 2020 (the Bill), the amendments would seriously impact complaints made by LGBTQI community members in the future.
The impacts include stopping victims from accessing justice in more than one jurisdiction, preventing victims from accessing justice where the discrimination occurred over more than 12 months, and requires all complaints to include unnecessary complexities over thought processes.
In a submission to the Inquiry on the Anti-Discrimination Amendments, the GLRL affirmed that the Act already fails to protect LGBTQI people from discrimination without the new complaint handling amendments. As a result, the GLRL recommends that the NSW Anti-Discrimination board or the Law Reform Commission conduct a complete review, rather than instate individual amendments.
Convenor of The NSW GLRL, Jack Whitney, believes that singular amendments will further weaken the Anti-Discrimination Act and believes that the best protections will come from a community-consulted review.
“The issues are best addressed by a full review of the Act in partnership with the community, rather than through piecemeal amendments to individual elements of the legislation,” he said.
“The lobby has full knowledge of the context in which The Hon. Mark Latham MLC has drafted the Bill.
“We also understand that The Hon. Mark Latham MLC and others genuinely believe themselves to have been subject to vexatious complaints.
“However, we ask that the issues of complaint handling be considered in full by an expert body, such as Anti-Discrimination NSW themselves or the Law Reform Commission, as one element of a broader review into the Act, rather than via this Bill.”
Recommendations accompanying the GLRL’s submission were informed by consultation with Members of Parliament, key organisations and LGBTQI community consultation.
The consultation found that a full review of the Act would be better than individual amendments, noting that the proposed amendments would only compound apparent problems with the way complaints are already handled under the Act.
“In considering these proposed amendments, it is critical to remember that there is no requirement for complainants to Anti-Discrimination NSW to have legal representation,” Whitney said.
“This means that the impact of this Bill would be felt most acutely by unrepresented victims of discrimination, trying to navigate a complex legal system.
“The Bill, as drafted is flawed, would limit access to justice and unnecessarily complicates a system which must be capable of navigation by unrepresented victims of discrimination.”