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Australia's Sex Discrimination Act will soon apply to politicians. Why didn't it before?

April 9, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 49.1%. 2 min read.

A series of legal loopholes that prevent Australia's public servants -- including politicians and judges -- from being prosecuted for sexual harassment look like they are finally about to be closed following nearly 40 years on the statute books.

On Thursday, Morrison said in a news conference the government plans to amend the Sex Discrimination Act under measures designed to tackle sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Morrison said sexual harassment was "immoral and despicable and even criminal," and "denies Australians, especially women, not just their personal security but their economic security by not being safe at work. "

Zali Steggall, an independent federal politician and lawyer, said the proposed changes to the law were a positive step, but she called on the government to make the changes quickly.

Gaze told CNN that under the Sex Discrimination Act, politicians and judges are not covered as they don't fall within the areas of employment where the legislation prohibits discrimination -- leaving them outside the protections of the act

Politicians' staffers are covered under separate employment legislation, Gaze said, which doesn't include sex discrimination protections.

Legal experts said the loopholes in the law were likely the result of outdated and poorly worded legislation, rather than an attempt to deliberately protect Australian politicians from accusations of sexual harassment.

Federal politician Steggall said the original wording of the 1984 Act had been proscriptive, trying to lay out every type of workplace where discrimination or harassment could occur, rather than issuing a blanket ban.

Steggall said the loopholes had first been identified during an inquiry in the Australian Senate in 2008 but had taken more than a decade to fix, with blame falling on "all sides of politics for failing to act. "

Morrison said Thursday he would adopt all 55 of the recommendations made by the commissioner, including a blanket ban on sex discrimination in the workplace and a national survey every four years to check on progress.

The government's proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act would also make it clearer for employers and employees on what constitutes gender discrimination, and give complainants longer to file.

But despite Morrison's June timelime, Steggall said she had drafted new laws that were ready to be introduced once Parliament resumes in May.

Her legislation would close the loopholes in the Sex Discrimination Act and sexual harassment in all circumstances, she said.

Brasch said the success of any legislation introduced by the Morrison government would depend on how the new laws were worded, to erase any "ambiguity" in the legislation and ensure public servants were "personally liable" for sexual harassment.

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