Reform of Commonwealth Discrimination Legislation

In April 2010 Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner announced the Government’s intention to streamline federal anti-discrimination legislation by replacing the five existing Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws with a new consolidated Act. The consolidated legislation was intended to remove unnecessary regulatory overlap, address inconsistencies across laws and make the system more user-friendly. However, given the scope of the project, it has taken considerable time to progress.

An extensive public consultation on the proposed consolidation was completed in February 2012 and the Exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 and associated Explanatory Memorandum were released for consultation in November 2012. The discussion paper, public comments, and draft legislation can all be accessed here.

The exposure draft of the consolidated legislation is currently under consideration by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and Adelaide Law School academic Anne Hewitt made a submission commenting on selected aspects of the Bill. Her full submission can be accessed here.

The submission focused in particular on the potential for the new consolidated federal legislation to contribute to the rationalization of Australia’s discrimination laws. In particular, it recommended that:

  1. Discrimination of the basis of additional attributes covered in most states and territories (such as spent convictions or irrelevant criminal record) be included in the draft bill; and
  2. That the prohibitions in the proposed consolidated Act be extended to apply consistently to the same areas of public life.


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