Age Discrimination Bill to Become Law

Legislation to eliminate age discrimination has passed through Parliament, making Australia a world leader in this area of public policy.

The Age Discrimination Bill 2003 passed the Senate on 15 June 2004 and will become law on receiving Royal Assent. The Bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in key areas of public life. These include employment, education, and access to goods, services and facilities.

The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said the fact only three other Commonwealth Acts directed at discrimination on particular grounds have been introduced in the past three decades - the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 - was indicative of the significance of this legislation.

"The Age Discrimination Bill is a significant means of promoting a change in people's attitudes about the contributions of younger and older people to society," he said.

Widespread support from business and community groups, as well as individuals, throughout Australia was testament to the strong demand that exists for this legislation, he added.

Mr Ruddock said the new legislation would facilitate a change in people's attitudes, "without imposing unrealistic and unnecessary restraints on decision-making in business and other sectors of public life."

The Bill allows for a number of exemptions, relating to superannuation, insurance and credit; for pensions, allowances and benefits; and for acts done in compliance with particular laws, awards and agreements.

A number of recent reports have recommended age discrimination legislation.

These include the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report Age Matters: A Report on Age Discrimination, and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Workplace Relations Report Age Counts - An Inquiry into issues specific to mature-age workers.

18 June, 2004

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