I rise to speak to the Equal Opportunity (Sporting Competitions) Amendment Bill, which was originally introduced by the member for Taylor in another place, passed on the voices and transmitted here. This was no surprise either, given its intentions are honourable and the end it seeks is uncontroversial. This bill merely allows current practice to continue, or more specifically, to prevent the status quo from being disrupted by spurious legal challenges via the current Equal Opportunity Act and its pseudojudicial body, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
Unfortunately, its Victorian counterpart, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (or VCAT) entertained a case, South v Royal Victorian Bowls Association Inc. VCAT 2001 in which a female lawn bowler claimed unlawful discrimination in the association’s decision to deny her affiliate membership on the basis of her sex. The association defended itself on the basis of the exemption in the Victorian act, citing differences in the play of men and women based on the superior strength of men, amongst other things. The tribunal rejected this and found that an exemption did not necessarily apply.
While this decision did not automatically apply to South Australia, given that our existing act is similar, it may face the same challenge, the effect of which would be to completely integrate all competitions and eliminate gender-based division. Thankfully, the South Australian Equal Opportunity Tribunal granted an application for an effective moratorium to be placed on that action. This has been in place since February 2010. The tribunal made it clear that this could not continue indefinitely, and legislative change would be required to give the association some certainty. This bill effects that change to allow current practice to continue. The controversy lies not here but in the mere fact that this legislation is required, and that the tribunal either does not have the power or desire to rule with common sense in mind to prevent frivolous cases, where genuine discrimination has not occurred, from being heard.
In the vast majority of competitions here in South Australia, particularly those in country areas amongst older populations, there is a want in the community to maintain single-sex competitions to maximise the social and financial benefit to participating clubs. Put simply, division based on gender here is a positive, as it encourages participation. One would assume that unlawful discrimination implies a negative outcome for the complainant and that determines its illegality. It seems many unlawful discrimination cases in today’s society are based on rigid legislation designed originally to prevent genuine discrimination but increasingly being misused, overburdening organisations and leading to nothing else but an overly precious and ultra politically-correct society.
It should be noted that this action will not endanger the current mixed or open competitions from being conducted parallel to the current single-sex competitions. This gives competitors a choice. So, of course, the opposition supports this bill, but I agree with the member for Frome when he expressed his disappointment that it had reached the point where legislation is required to sort this out. It is common sense, and I implore the tribunal to approach cases with this is mind in the future. The opposition supports the bill.