Mark Dreyfus
Mark Dreyfus

Overarching discrimination laws difficult for govt to define

PROMISED reforms to create a single national law governing all forms of discrimination have been put on ice, as Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus attempts to find the right balance in the laws.

Progress on the bill was slowed when referred to a Senate inquiry late last year, attracting more than 3000 public submissions.

Mr Dreyfus said that process had highlighted numerous technical legal problems within the exposure draft of the new human rights and anti-discrimination bill, circulated by former attorney-general Nicola Roxon.

But he said Ms Roxon had done a good job on the exposure draft, despite Mr Dreyfus now working on "getting the balance right" in the proposal.

"We now need to seek to resolve those difficulties and work on the recommendations and suggestions that we've received," he said.

Mr Dreyfus also said he could not lay out a timeframe from when the new laws would be introduced or passed by the parliament, despite previous promises the reforms would be complete before the election.

Those reforms will ensure those in same-sex relationships will be treated equally under Commonwealth law.

But Professor Gillian Triggs, president of Australian Human Rights Commission, called on the government to ensure a revised, complete package was introduced urgently.

"The level of inconsistency, complexity and confusion from the existing different discrimination laws means that they are not serving the Australian community as best they might," she said.

"The commission's concern is that any lack of progress on a consolidated bill will further delay any capacity to achieve harmonisation for several years."