Australia's Sex Discrimination Act will soon apply to politicians. Why didn't it before?

A series of legal loopholes that prevent Australia’s public servants — 包括政客和法官 — 免受性骚扰的起诉看起来,他们几乎将在不久之后被关闭 40 years on the statute books.

The move comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison deals with the backlash over his handling of a string of allegations about the mistreatment of women in politics.
星期四, Morrison said in a news conference the government plans to amend the Sex Discrimination Act under measures designed to tackle sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. He said he hoped to pass the new laws by the end of June.
    Morrison said sexual harassment wasimmoral and despicable and even criminal,” 和 “denies Australians, 特别是女人, not just their personal security but their economic security by not being safe at work.
      The changes were recommended in 三月 2020 报告 by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. It took the government more than one year to announce amendments to the act.
        The push to update the law comes with the country’s political culture under scrutiny following a wave of allegations in the past two months of inappropriate sexual behavior in Parliament, 包含 被指称 骚扰 and rape.
        In February a former staffer in Morrison’s ruling Liberal Party said she had been raped in 2019 by a colleague while inside Parliament House in Canberra. Three weeks later, then-Attorney General Christian Porter revealed he had been accused of raping a woman in the late 1980s, 哪一个 he strongly denied.
          Morrison was strongly criticized for his response to the allegations. On March 15, thousands of women across Australia marched in protest to call for an end to violence against women and greater protections against sex crimes
          Zali Steggall, an independent federal politician and lawyer, said the proposed changes to the law were a positive step, but she called on the government to make the changes quickly.
          The longer the delay is, the longer the behavior is not caught, and this is not retrospective legislation so it needs to be passed as soon as possible,” 她说.
          Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on 8 四月.

          How the loopholes were created

          Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1984.
          In a review of the law for the UNSW Law Journal on its 20th anniversary in 2004, Australian discrimination law expert Beth Gaze described it as hesitant and rather ambivalent.
          Gaze told CNN that under the Sex Discrimination Act, politicians and judges are not covered as they don’t fall within the areas of employment where the legislation prohibits discriminationleaving them outside the protections of the act
          Politiciansstaffers are covered under separate employment legislation, Gaze said, which doesn’t include sex discrimination protections.
          Legal experts said the loopholes in the law were likely the result of outdated and poorly worded legislation, rather than an attempt to deliberately protect Australian politicians from accusations of sexual harassment.
          Federal politician Steggall said the original wording of the 1984 Act had been proscriptive, trying to lay out every type of workplace where discrimination or harassment could occur, rather than issuing a blanket ban. The wording of the legislation led to confusion and gray areas.
          The original lawreflected the time in which it was created,” President of the Law Council of Australia, 博士. Jacoba Brasch, 在声明中说. “Australian culture and attitudes have moved on, and the SDA needs to be updated to reflect the contemporary expectations of the public,” 她说.
          Steggall said the loopholes had first been identified during an inquiry in the Australian Senate in 2008 but had taken more than a decade to fix, with blame falling onall sides of politics for failing to act.

          What’s in the amendments?

          Morrison said Thursday he would adopt all 55 of the recommendations made by the commissioner, including a blanket ban on sex discrimination in the workplace and a national survey every four years to check on progress.
          The government’s proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act would also make it clearer for employers and employees on what constitutes gender discrimination, and give complainants longer to file.
          But despite Morrison’s June timelime, Steggall said she had drafted new laws that were ready to be introduced once Parliament resumes in May.
          Her legislation would close the loopholes in the Sex Discrimination Act and sexual harassment in all circumstances, 她说. The law would also penalize organizations or political parties that aid or abet in the crime.
            Brasch said the success of any legislation introduced by the Morrison government would depend on how the new laws were worded, to erase anyambiguityin the legislation and ensure public servants werepersonally liablefor sexual harassment.
            “(This is) key to ensuring that (the problem) is appropriately addressed, and that problematic conduct does not fall into regulatory gaps,” 她说.

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