Open letter to the Victorian Premier concerning human rights and discrimination
PO Box 1675
ATTENTION VICTORIAN PREMIER TED BAILLIEU
You were recently elected to the Victorian parliament with what could not be termed an overwhelming parliamentary majority, either in the lower house or the upper house.
Your government is now trying to remove human rights from the citizens of this state which have been fought for over time and which have achieved success and relief for many people previously disadvantaged before human rights achieved the openness for which they have become so necessary.
It would appear that the attorney general of your government is determined to reintroduce discriminations which had been successfully removed and which will, by their reintroduction turn the Victorian clock of achievements back some 50 years to a time when so many people didn’t have rights which they now have.
It is worth bearing in mind that organisations which will be able to discriminate at will are those organisations which already have exemptions under the present legislation. This, of course means religious institutions which are also non-taxpayers to the society which houses them.
You and the attorney general should bear in mind the facts that you may not need the protections provided by the laws as you intend to change them, but one day when you are older and circumstances change, you may find yourselves lacking those very protections for which so many people have fought for so long.
It is also worth remembering that although people elected your government on the basis that they saw the previous government as out of touch and arrogant, it will probably not take much persuasion for people to notice that your government is acting no differently from the previous government and decide at the next election, only 3 years away, that they have had enough of the Baillieu government’s take on human rights in Victoria and will vote for change.
The gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) communities are still discriminated against by religious institutions under current human rights legislation. This discrimination will now become much worse with the changes proposed by the attorney general. How you and your government will deal with this when it is discovered one day that people who are close to you are in those categories and are being discriminated against by your government will be interesting to discover.
JCCV Welcomes Amendments to Equal Opportunity Act [May 6 2011]
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted to see that the Victorian Government is proposing amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act as recently announced by the Attorney General, Robert Clark. In particular, the JCCV sees the amendments as rectifying anomalies in Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation as it relates to religious based schools and organisations.
Searle noted that “the amendments will ensure we have a fair balance between preventing discrimination and ensuring that schools and other organisations are able to employ people who conform with the value system and beliefs of the organisation. In this way, we will limit the possibilities for clashes, offence and tension in the workplace.”
This would be a good time to stop this amendment in its tracks before it does irreparable harm to the Victorian communities it is supposed to support and help.
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
Media release: Greens MP stops Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill in the upper house
"Changes to Victoria’s equal opportunity laws which were rammed through the lower house on Wednesday are a step backwards for the human rights of thousands of Victorians", Greens justice spokesperson Sue Pennicuik MLC said today.
"The government rushed the bill into the upper house first thing yesterday morning, but I was able to use the right open to any member to deny the government 'leave' to 'second read' the bill straight away" said Ms Pennicuik.
"We had already witnessed the spectacle of the government suspending the rules of parliament to allow the bill to be reintroduced and passed in the Legislative Assembly after the government lost the vote on it last week. This has set a very bad precedent for democracy in Victoria". The bill will now be debated in the upper house on 14 June.
"This bill will allow faith-based organisations and schools to discriminate in employment matters on the basis of a person's religious beliefs or activities, sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status and gender identity, without the current qualifier that the attribute must be an inherent requirement of the job (introduced by the previous government in 2010 in attempt to balance religious freedom with freedom from discrimination).
“However, neither the current act, nor the proposed changes balance religious freedom with the fundamental human rights of everyone to equality and protection against discrimination,” Ms Pennicuik said.
“There is no place for discrimination in employment on the basis of personal characteristics", she said. "Employers should not be asking employees or job applicants about their personal lives. The only questions should be about qualifications and experience that are genuine requirements of the job”.
The review of equal opportunity laws in 2008 by Julian Gardner, recommended that the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) should be empowered to uncover entrenched or systemic discrimination.
"The new Inquiry function is very important when we know that individuals do not always make complaints of discrimination for fear of the consequences”, Ms Pennicuik said. "The new laws will remove this newly won function of VEOHRC".