Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022

SECOND READING DEBATE - FEDERATION CHAMBER

It is a pleasure to be in the Federation Chamber today doing what former Prime Minister Paul Keating developed it to do: to get on with government business by creating a second chamber where more House of Representatives members have more time to be heard in this place and to represent their communities. It is my absolute pleasure to rise today to support the AntiDiscrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 and to thank the Attorney-General, the Hon. Mark Dreyfus KC, for the work in preparing this bill for this government in such a short time. It has us here five months and six days into government, doing what we said we would do.

This bill is central to what we took to the Australian people, because it delivers, in combination with the bill that was introduced in the House this morning by the Hon. Tony Burke. That bill, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022, is the last piece in the puzzle that delivers on all of the recommendations in the Respect@ Work report. This is an extraordinary day in this place. The Respect@Work report obviously is something that was talked about a lot in the lead-up to the election and during the election campaign, and it proved a stark difference between the then government and our government in terms of attitude to the recommendations of that review. This bill that I'm speaking on today puts in most of the pieces, with the other bill introduced to the House to fully implement every recommendation from Respect@Work.

This bill is a significant step for preventing sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, and I stand here today and shortly will join colleagues, particularly my female colleagues, as we look at the women's budget report. So today is a good day for Australians, but it's a particularly good day for women who have fought long and hard over decades to get gender equity and to get to a place where sexual harassment stops in Australian workplaces. This bill, with its many aspects, takes us to that place today.

This bill introduces a positive duty, and this is critical to creating safe workplaces and workplaces free from sexual harassment. It creates a positive duty by amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 to provide the commission with the function of assessing and enforcing compliance with a positive duty in the Sex Discrimination Act, which is recommendation 18. It replaced the object clause inserted by the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act which stated that an object of the act is to 'achieve equality of opportunity between men and women' with an object to 'achieve substantive equality between men and women'. I think every woman in the country understands the difference in that wording.

This is a bill that creates a significant milestone. It introduces a suite of reforms that are critical for ensuring safer, respectful and more equitable workplaces for all Australians. It will significantly strengthen and clarify the legal and regulatory framework related to sexual harassment in Australia, particularly by introducing the positive duty for employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking to take reasonable, proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment and related conduct as far as possible. It will expand the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission in preventing sexual harassment and other forms of sexual discrimination. The bill will, as I've said, introduce a positive duty on employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination.

In passing last night I was talking to my colleague the member for Higgins. I said I was watching a television show recently and it was quite dated. I was doing a bit of retroviewing. There was a scene where a young female police officer in the course of her investigation entered a mechanic's workshop. Centrefold pictures appeared plastered around the walls. This young female police officer was confronted in her work, in having to enter that workplace in the course of her investigation, with these images. I said to the member for Higgins, 'Can you imagine if workplaces still looked like that?' It's a credit to women around this country who have worked so hard—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

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