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Babette Francis

Babette Francis says anti-discrimination laws rob individuals of choices which affect their livelihood.

In all the thousands of words printed in support of Moira Rayner — the recently retired Commissioner for Equal Opportunity — and critical of the State Government’s re-structuring of the commission, no alternative view was presented.

The assumption was made that all women support anti-discrimination legislation and the role of the commission in its present form.

This assumption is not correct.

In our submission to the Victorian Government’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee reviewing the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1984, we recommended that anti-discrimination legislation should not apply to the private sector.

There is no rationale for compelling private employers or landladies to employ or house people they would rather not employ or house.

A private employer or landlady has to accept all the risks of running a business. Neither the Government nor the Equal Opportunity Commission will step in and help them if they make wrong decisions (and thereby damage their business or their property), not even when such decisions are forced upon them under the duress of equal opportunity legislation.

If an employer wishes to employ a female secretary or a male window cleaner because he or she feels more comfortable about such preferences, why should he or she not have that choice?

We hear endless references to "sexual preferences" but why cannot private individuals exercise preferences in hiring and housing?

It is not generally understood that when an employer or landlady selects a particular employee or tenant over an-other, although their choice may not be "politically correct" the community as a whole does not lose out because the job or the flat always goes to someone.

(It is more likely to be permanently lost if employers and landladies are coerced into making choices with which they are not happy — their reaction might be to shut down the business.)

Indeed, with the incentive of the profit motive, private employers and landladies are likely to make wise choices — more likely than equal opportunity bureaucrats whose salaries are derived from taxpayers and who suffer no penalty for making foolish decisions.

In Sydney, an Anglican couple was compelled to let a flat to a de facto couple, even though they did not wish to because they did not want to make a living from what, in their view, was an immoral relationship.

Ms Rayner was being less that candid when she claimed recently that the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 prohibits discrimination against either men or women on the basis of their sex.

As she well knows, both the Sex Discrimination Act and the UN Convention on which it is based, specifically allow, indeed almost call for, discrimination against men.

The excuse is that women experienced discrimination in the past — but the beneficiaries of these affirmative action policies are not the women of the past, but the women of today who have not suffered discrimination and who on all the indices of well-being are doing a great deal better than men.

There is little "dignity" for men who are rejected for employment because companies are coerced into meeting targets and goals for the hiring and promotion of women. For every man who experiences this kind of injustice, there is usually a wife and children who also suffer.

During Ms Rayner’s term as commissioner, our organisation complained several times about advertisements for childcare workers which specified that the applicants had to have a feminist philosophy, and that lesbians were particularly welcome to apply. No action was taken. But had the advertisement indicated that white, conservative, heterosexual women or men were particularly welcome to apply, there would have been an uproar from Ms Rayner’s feminist cohorts.

To the thousands of ordinary families with young children equal opportunity legislation and affirmative action polices (such as the advertisement cited above) which discriminate against heterosexual males are a cruel joke.

Apparently the supporters of Ms Rayner believe some people are more equal than others.

This belief is likely to be reinforced by federal legislation — Attorney-General Michael Lavarch intends to strengthen the "special provisions for positive discrimination".

BABETTE FRANCIS is the national and Overseas co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum, a pro-family lobby.

This article was written in March 1994. The public has long since passed judgement on the excesses of equal opportunity by electing John Howard and re-electing Jeff Kennett.





Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN