We trust that our readership understand that developments like this don't have to progress unimpeded. -- Ed.
Discrimination against dominant white males will soon be encouraged in a bid to boost the status of women, the disabled and cultural and religious minorities.
positive discrimination -- treating people differently in order to
obtain equality for marginalised groups - is set to be legalised under
planned changes to the Equal Opportunity Act foreshadowed last week by
state Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
The laws are also expected to protect the rights of people with
criminal records to get a job, as long as their past misdeeds are
irrelevant to work being sought.
Equal Opportunity Commission CEO Dr Helen Szoke said males had "been the big success story in business and goods and services".
"Clearly, they will have their position changed because they will be
competing in a different way with these people who have been
traditionally marginalised," she said.
"Let's open it up so everyone can have a fair go."
Victoria's peak business body expressed concern yesterday about the
need for the proposed laws, and questioned if they would undermine the
right of companies to make legitimate business decisions.
At present, individuals or bodies wanting to single out any race or
gender for special treatment must gain an exemption from VCAT.
Companies and public bodies accused of discrimination can only be held to account after a complaint has been made.
But the proposed changes go much further, allowing the commission to
inquire into discrimination, seize documents and search and enter
premises after attempts to bring about change have failed.
Businesses and individuals would be required to change their ways even if a complaint had not been received.
Action could be taken where an unlawful act was "likely to occur", not just in cases where discrimination has taken place.
The commission would also have real teeth to enforce its rulings via VCAT and, as a last resort, in the courts.
The changes, shown in a Department of Justice report by former public advocate Julian Gardner, would also:
EDUCATE people so they know their rights.
GIVE more protection to people with disabilities, requiring companies and public entities to reasonably accommodate their needs.
GRANT the homeless and people who act as volunteers better protection from discrimination.
Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace general manager David Gregory said business supported the objectives of equal opportunity legislation.
"But I am concerned and curious about whether these changes mean the
commission can second-guess the legitimate business decisions of
individual businesses," he said.
The first raft of changes to the Equal Opportunity Act were introduced into Parliament last week.