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WA to overhaul outdated equality laws

Western Australia’s laws will be reformed to strengthen protections for LGBTQI people and remove an outdated caveat on sexual harassment complaints.

WA’s Law Reform Commission has made more than 160 recommendations aimed at improving the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Attorney-General John Quigley on Tuesday said the McGowan government had broadly accepted most of the recommendations and would draft a new Equal Opportunity Act “to bring WA into line with the rest of the country”.

Planned reforms include strengthening equal opportunity protections for LGBTQI staff and students in religious schools, and new anti-vilification laws.

The government has also flagged it will remove the outdated “disadvantage test” for sexual harassment complaints, in line with the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into harassment in the resources sector.

Under the current definition, complainants must prove that objecting to the harassment would have the potential to disadvantage them in their employment.

Members of parliament and their staff, judges, local government workers and volunteers will also be explicitly prohibited from engaging in sexual or racial harassment.

People who are trans, gender-diverse or non-binary will also be provided anti-discrimination protections without needing to be recognised by the Gender Reassignment Board.

“Since WA’s nation-leading anti-discrimination laws were first introduced, community expectations regarding discrimination have progressed and WA now lags behind most other jurisdictions,” Mr Quigley said.

“This is not about granting additional rights to any one group of people, but ensuring all Western Australians are free from discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation.

“Importantly, these changes will make parliament and our court system safer workplaces and ensure action can be taken against cases of sexual and racial harassment.”

Mr Quigley said the new bill was still being considered and drafted, but would aim to achieve a balance between the rights of “a wide variety of Western Australians”, without overburdening employers with complexity.

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