The WA Greens claim immediate changes need to be made to the Equal Opportunity Act, following a report revealing a fall in the Equal Opportunity Commission’s ability address discrimination issues.
Greens Sexuality and Gender Identity spokesperson Alison Xamon said the government needed to address religious exemptions and promise to address discrimination especially for LGBTIQ people in WA, with the Equal Opportunity Commission struggling to combat discrimination.
“The Equal Opportunity Commission’s most recent Annual Report details concerning trends including loss of twelve positions since 2014. This is simply unacceptable,” Ms Xamon said.
“These reductions are impacting service deliver and the Commission’s ability to undertake outreach activity.”
Ms Xamon said the reductions have resulted in a rise in complaints.
“These reductions in service, the number of complaints made to the Commission has gone up 10 per cent from last year. Notably, these figures include a double in the number of sexual harassment complaints,” she said.
Ms Xamon said Attorney General John Quigley’s announcement that the Law Reform Commission will review the act will be reviewed.
“It is essential our laws reflect current community expectations, and the general community is very clear about this; they want less discrimination against LGBTIQ people, not more,” Ms Xamon said.
However, she believed better resourcing was also needed.
“It is not enough to have good laws if you do not appropriately resource the body you task with addressing unlawful discrimination,” she said
“The Government also needs to appropriately resource the Equal Opportunity Commission – the very body that is charged with promoting the Act and addressing and conciliating discrimination and harassment complaints.”
Ms Xamon introduced the Equal Opportunity (LGBTIQ Anti-Discrimination) Amendment Bill 2018 in June to amend the Equal Opportunities 1984 (WA) bill.
The amendments will prevent private religious schools from legally discriminating against employees, students and their families on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ms Xamon said while there was a rise in discrimination incidents, there were a small number of complaints.
“We know, of course, that only a relatively small number of incidents are formally complained about so these figures do not reflect the true scale of the prevalence of discrimination in our community,” she said.
However, Ms Xamon said the system was not sustainable with the Equal Opportunity Commission’s tasks to combat discrimination and the Greens’ Equal Opportunity Act amendment was needed.
“The Commission’s core tasks of preventing and providing redress for unlawful discrimination across Western Australia’s diverse and widely dispersed population are monumental, yet we seem to be expecting more and more of them from an ever decreasing pool of resources – it is simply not sustainable,” she said.
“Undertaking a review is crucial however it does not detract from the need to pass my Equal Opportunity (LGBTIQ Anti-Discrimination) Bill 2018, or from the need for sufficient resourcing of the Equal Opportunity Commission to undertake its fundamentally important work.”