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Attorney-General and Justice - Anti-Discrimination Act

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tags: Anti-Discrimination Act, State Budget, Discrimination

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, as Ms Haddad has said, there continues to be constant threats to the integrity of 17(1) of the Anti-Discrimination Act. A major one at the moment is the letter-writing and lobbying campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby. The largest group of complaints under section 17(1) are on the basis of disability, something that's never mentioned by the federal government or the ACL. They portray the issue as God versus the gays. Are you concerned that weakening section 17 would take away protections for people with disability and others, including women and people of colour? Are you concerned that prejudice against LBGTIQA+ people is being weaponised by groups like the ACL to take away rights of stigmatised groups?

Ms ARCHER - It's a very loaded question. It's my role as Attorney-General and I have advocated for all groups in relation to the proposed Commonwealth legislation, particularly when it was first raised by the former federal attorney-general. I have written to him and I've said this on the record in parliament about concerns that we had in Tasmania, that we need to strike the right balance with our anti-discrimination laws. They need to protect people from discrimination, obviously.

At the same time, we need to ensure that people have free speech. That's sometimes a very difficult thing to balance in the public debate. We need to ensure that our laws strike the right balance. With respect to our section 17, what I have said and what I commit to is that the Government has no plans to change that section. I've advocated in the past and will continue to advocate to the Commonwealth that we adopt a measured approach. I also alerted them to the fact that our previous attempt to amend in relation to the defence was defeated. They had our position on the record.

I hope that answers your question, Dr Woodruff. I support a balanced approach, I support free speech. I think we all realise the importance of free speech. I think we all realise the importance of people being adequately protected from discrimination, harassment, bullying and the like. As Ms Haddad recognised, we have the strongest legislation in the country, no doubt, and we need to ensure that we maintain a correct balance.

Dr WOODRUFF - The words used in section 17(1) include words like 'humiliation', 'intimidation', 'insulting', 'ridiculing' and 'offensive'. These have been incorporated into a range of Tasmanian Government and non government anti-bullying policies. They include the Education department's anti-bullying policies, Police and Emergency Services anti-bullying policies, WorkSafe Tasmania and Neighbourhood House associations and many more. Do you agree that any watering-down of section 17 would undermine these policies and weaken the best law that we have in Tasmania against bullying?

Ms ARCHER - All of those things you've asked come under provisions at work in relation to workplace safety both in terms of the physical and mental health and wellbeing. I fully support that. That is the current law. As I've said, I have no plans to change section 17(1).