Victims must be considered in complaint handling reform

The NSW Legislative Council Legal Affairs Committee has completed its inquiry into One Nation’s Bill to amend processes for lodging discrimination complaints. Their recommendations about the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Complaint Handling) Bill 2020 are a mixed bag.

In positive news, the Committee recommends the Bill’s proposed changes to sections 89B and 92 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 not proceed. In PIAC’s view, these changes would have undermined the ability of people experiencing discrimination to have their complaints heard.

The Committee’s call for a ‘thorough review of the Act with the aim of updating and modernising’ it is also encouraging. In our view, any review should be completed prior to Parliament considering either the complaint handling Bill, or the One Nation Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020.

Unfortunately, some of the Committee’s other recommendations, if implemented, could unnecessarily complicate complaint handling processes, while also making it more difficult for victims of discrimination to succeed in the complaints process.

For example, the proposal that Anti-Discrimination NSW rejects complaints, at an early stage, where it ‘falls within an exception to unlawful discrimination’ is potentially unjust. We do not believe it is appropriate that a decision about whether an exception applies is made before further information is sought from the complainant and a response from the respondent.

PIAC will be urging Attorney General Mark Speakman to consider the impact of changes on victims of discrimination while preparing the NSW Government’s response.

Read our submission.

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Towards Truth is a partnership between PIAC and UNSW Indigenous Law Centre.
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