Recently, ICS made a submission to the NSW Parliament on the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020.
ICS considers the Bill is sound in its intentions of remedying the clear problem that the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board has accepted and continued to investigate and conciliate vilification and anti-discrimination complaints which it should have declined to accept or should have rejected at an early stage of investigation. Mr Latham in his second reading speech for the Bill gave examples of the acceptance by the Board of over 35 repeated complaints by a serial complainant against the same respondent over essentially the same disagreement about sexual morality based on religious beliefs.
That track-record and the example of complaints against Mr Sunol who had cognitive impairment shows that successive Presidents of the Board have not been appropriately exercising the discretion to decline complaints or that the grounds for so doing are too narrow. This failure has led to the NSW anti-discrimination jurisdiction being used for witch-hunts in the culture wars and, allegedly, to some complainants enriching themselves by pressuring respondents to pay them to withdraw unmeritorious complaints so the respondent can avoid the legal costs and time and media criticism. Whatever view members of the Committee may take of the underlying debate about sexual morality, it is not appropriate that the anti-discrimination tribunal, justice system and taxpayer resources be used to provide a cost-free public forum for a complainant to repeatedly seek to intimidate and close down those with opposing views.
We support the Bill’s proposals to broaden the grounds on which unmeritorious and vexatious complaints may be declined or later rejected by the President and the Board and by NCAT. And we support the Bill’s proposals to require that the President “must” rather than “may” decline or reject complaints on those expanded grounds.