Victoria Shadow Attorney General Robert Clark
Coalition To Oppose Brumby Threat To Rights Of Victorians
Victor P Taffa
The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition will oppose Labor’s Equal Opportunity Bill because it burdens businesses and community organisations with red tape and massively increases government power while doing little to improve the lives of Victorians, Shadow Attorney-General Robert Clark said today.
Mr. Clark said the Bill also threatened the rights of parents to send their children to faith-based schools to be taught by teachers who uphold the school’s values.
“Under Premier John Brumby’s Bill, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will have more power than Victoria Police to seize documents and interrogate the staff or volunteers of a business, school, or social club.” Mr. Clark said.
“John Brumby would give the Commission the power to investigate virtually any business or community organisation in the state, compel it to hand over documents and give evidence, and then slap it with a compliance notice without even having to prove any discrimination has occurred.”
Mr. Clark said that many of the open-ended duties and obligations in the Bill were inconsistent with Commonwealth legislation, including those regarding disability access, youth wages and faith-based schools.
“A faith-based school that wants to employ teachers who will uphold the school’s values will be obliged to prove that conformity with the school’s religious beliefs is an ‘inherent requirement’ and can be fined more than $35,000 if they advertise for staff in breach of that requirement.”
“Yet Brumby Government Ministers will remain completely free to discriminate on the grounds of political belief when hiring their office staff.” Mr. Clark said.
“Other measures in the Bill, such as deeming volunteers to be employees and restricting the right of both government and non-government schools to set standards of dress and behaviour for students, will cause enormous disruption and create disputes.”
“If volunteers are deemed to be employees, it will make sporting clubs, social clubs and other community organisations liable to claims that they have discriminated in the roles they give to volunteers and claims that a volunteer has discriminated against someone whom the organisation is trying to help.”
“Both the Liberal Party and the Nationals have a proud tradition of supporting equal opportunity, with Victoria’s first equal opportunity legislation introduced in 1977 by the Hamer government and the current Equal Opportunity Act which has generally served Victoria well introduced by the Kennett government in 1995.”
“Labor’s Bill would drag Victoria in the wrong direction.” Mr. Clark said.