The proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill

1 February 2013

Dr Belinda Smith asks whether the original inclusion of the "offend, insult or intimidate" clause in the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill and the vociferous debate about it to date has tainted public opinion, even though the Attorney-General has now publicy stated that the government will change or remove it.

The Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon announced yesterday that Clause 19(2)(b), otherwise known as the "offend, insult or intimidate" clause, would be redrafted (or removed).

In an article for The Conversation, Dr Smith writes that "...considering the ambitious and competing instructions they were given, the drafters of the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 have done a remarkably good job, with the exception of that one clause.

"The reality is that the existing acts - including the Racial Discrimination Act and the Sex Discrimination Act- are each very complex, containing at least ten different definitions of discrimination (as well as other definitions of vilification and harassment).

"These acts set out a multitude of prohibitions and are qualified by an extraordinary and inconsistent array of exceptions.

"They pose a regulatory challenge and there is no doubt that their complexity and inconsistency justify the simplification exercise.

"The draft bill that has emerged is a remarkable achievement, containing one definition of discrimination, a simplified prohibition akin to the one used in the Racial Discrimination Act, and a general justification provision to replace a host of specific and technical exceptions."

View the entire article - Free speech and other human rights: the clause that almost sank the Human Rights Bill - The Conversation

Contact: Greg Sherington

Phone: +61 2 9351 0202

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