The Brumby Labor Government’s commitment to a fair go for all Victorians has been enhanced by the passage of new Equal Opportunity laws by Parliament last night.
Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls welcomed the passage of the new reforms, saying they ensured Victorians benefited from equal opportunity laws fit for the 21st century.
“I am pleased this Government has been able to ensure that equal opportunity laws in Victoria reflect modern times, reflect community attitudes and provide a fair go for all Victorians,” Mr Hulls said.
He said the new laws would help stamp out entrenched and systemic discrimination against minority groups by giving the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission the ability to investigate persistent and systemic discrimination without first requiring a complaint to be made.
In particular, the new laws will:
- Change the Commission from a complaints-handling body to one that educates and facilitates dispute resolution and compliance;
- Give the Commission more effective options to respond to systemic discrimination;
- Encourage best practice and proactive compliance by duty-holders without reliance on individual complaints;
- Provide a more effective complaints resolution system through early and flexible dispute resolution at the Commission but allowing complainants to also go directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have their matter determined; and
- Remove legal and technical barriers to the elimination of discrimination.
“Overall, these reforms equip Victoria to prevent discrimination, rather than just react to it; to resolve it in a more enduring way; to build collaboration with business; and to remove the obligation from individual shoulders and assume it together,” Mr Hulls said.
He said the new laws would put paid to the naysayers in the Opposition, who had made hysterical claims while debating the reforms in Parliament.
“The Opposition has engaged in a campaign of scaremongering and misinformation including referring to the Commission as ‘storm troopers’ and claiming that they would have more powers than the Victoria police,” Mr Hulls said.
“While these reforms are significant, they are by no means radical. A number of the equal opportunity commissions in other states in Australia already have similar investigatory powers.
“A truly democratic society embraces a fair go and rejects discrimination. This legislation will again make Victoria a leader when it comes to equal opportunity.”