Submission to Senate Inquiry Into Human Rights and Antidiscrimination bill 2012

COTA Australia is the national policy arm of the eight State and Territory COTAs (Councils on the Ageing) in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.

COTA Australia has a focus on national policy issues from the perspective of older people as citizens and consumers and seeks to promote, improve and protect the circumstances and wellbeing of older people in Australia. COTA takes a rights based approach to all of its work and one of our core principles is to promote positive views of ageing, reject ageism and challenge negative stereotypes. We work to combat ageism and age discrimination and see anti-discrimination legislation as an important tool to use in that fight.

COTA welcomed the Government’s decision to consolidate the anti-discrimination laws as we saw it as an opportunity to strengthen the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (ADA). The ADA is the most recent piece of anti-discrimination legislation but is widely regarded as the weakest and has done little to reduce age discrimination in Australia. COTA also believes the complaints system needs simplifying so that people feel more able to take forward complaints; the process of complaints then informs community attitudes as it makes it clear that certain discriminatory behaviours are not acceptable.

COTA now welcomes the exposure draft of the Bill and the opportunity to put a submission to the Committee. In our Submission we focus on a few key issues that we believe the Committee should consider in its examination of the exposure draft. These include the move to a single definition of discrimination, changes to the complaints process around the onus of proof of discrimination and the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected attribute.