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Respect@Work: Cost reform to better protect applicants in discrimination matters

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Albanese Government has today taken another step towards fulfilling its commitment to implement, in full, all recommendations of the landmark Respect@Work report.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (Costs Protection) Bill 2023 introduced today would implement the Government’s response to Recommendation 25 of the Respect@Work report.

The Respect@Work report found that applicants are often deterred from proceeding to court with sexual harassment matters because of the risk of having to pay a respondent’s costs.

By preventing a court from ordering an applicant to pay a respondent’s costs other than in certain limited circumstances, this Bill would remove a significant barrier for those seeking justice through federal court proceedings for unlawful discrimination matters.

At the same time, the Bill also recognises that not every respondent in an unlawful discrimination proceeding will be well-resourced or have a significant power advantage over an applicant, such as some individuals or small businesses.

The Government carefully considered the analysis of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and listened to stakeholder feedback in relation to the cost provision that was included in the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022. The Government then conducted a further public consultation on proposed cost protection models for Commonwealth anti-discrimination law.

The Bill reflects the outcome of that process, and I look forward to support across the Parliament for these important reforms.