The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (‘the GLRL’) recently produced a submission to the Inquiry on the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Complaint Handling) Bill 2020 (‘the Bill’) as part of the NSW Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No.5 Legal Affairs Inquiry. The GLRL, like many other community groups, have identified issues with the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (‘the Act’), especially where it fails to adequately protect LGBTIQ people from discrimination. The GLRL also acknowledged that there are legitimate problems with the way complaints made under the Act are handled.
Jack Whitney, Convenor of The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby argued that the inquiry is not the best avenue, “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”.
“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 submission are informed by the lobby’s consultation with Members of Parliament, key organisation and community consultation. It was in this consultation that firmed our position that a full review of the Act represents a better process than this Bill, and that there are clear concerns how the Bill has been drafted.
“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. 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.”
Other concerns include; stopping victims from accessing justice in more than one jurisdiction, stopping victims from accessing justice where the discrimination occurred over more than 12 months, stopping victims from accessing justice because some part of the complaint lacks substance, adding unnecessary complexity by requiring victims and respondents to provide details of cognitive function.
“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. This Bill should be rejected and a full review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, including complaint handling, be pursued by an external body such as the Anti-Discrimination NSW or the Law Reform Commission in partnership with thecommunity.”
Read the submission here
For further comment, contact Jack Whitney Convenor, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby on 0411387913