New Gender Equality Laws to Cost All Businesses

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This is yet another demonstration of the power and control of Australia’s feminist movement.

Commentary

The feminist Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has been at it again.

He introduced a bill giving employees, who claim their employers have sexually harassed or discriminated against them, a free pass to take action in court.

Under Mr. Dreyfus’s proposed bill, claimants who lose in court won’t have to pay their bosses’ legal bills unless the claim is so far-fetched that a judge labels it vexatious.

This is in a climate where payouts for sexual harassment are currently up to $268,000 (US$176,000) and rising.

Now, there will be fewer constraints on women wishing to use a false harassment allegation to punish a boss who failed to recognise her talents and it will be even easier for disgruntled employees to demand “go away” money from employers.

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Mr. Dreyfus’ move is simply the latest in this government’s punitive workplace changes, which include a “positive duty” requirement on employers to “take reasonable and proportionate measures” to wipe out sex discrimination and harassment in their workplaces.

If that sounds reasonable, you need to understand that means bosses now must meet various ill-defined, open-ended requirements, or risk punishment.

The Attorney-General’s Department estimates compliance will cost employers $226.4 million a year—which big businesses will pass on to customers, whilst crippling more small businesses already drowning in red tape.

It’s a mighty impressive effort forcing the entire workforce to dance to their tune—yet one more demonstration of the power and control of Australia’s feminist movement.

Hiding the Stats on Men

We can thank the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for setting all this in motion.

Four years ago, she and her team put together Respect@Work, a report on sexual harassment. This was based on their 2018 National Survey which actually included some awkward results.

Almost two in five women (39 percent) and just over one in four men (26 percent) said they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the previous five years.

Ms. Jenkins and her team dismissed the male results by claiming many of these male victims find such harassment “amusing or at least not serious.”

They went on to redefine sexual harassment as “gender-based violence,” which precludes any possibility of men being seen as victims. And it invites all the powerful domestic violence bureaucrats to come on board.

An HR industry magazine late last year quoted Patty Kinnersly, chief executive of the government’s key domestic violence body, Our Watch, celebrating the new positive duty on employers.

Ms. Kinnersly neatly explains their broader agenda: “Sexual harassment can be prevented, and change is possible … For women to be safe, they must be equal. Sexual harassment is more likely to occur where gender inequality is normalised.”

So, workplace sexual harassment morphed into a far larger animal requiring workplaces to promote “substantive equality between men and women”—one of 55 Respect@Work recommendations that have now become law.

When the Morrison government received the report in 2020, they dutifully toed the line, pushing many of the recommendations through. Yet they baulked at the crazier stuff, including the positive duty requirement.

Mr. Dreyfus had no such qualms.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and the Referendum Working Group address the media in Canberra, Australia, on March 30, 2023. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and the Referendum Working Group address the media in Canberra, Australia, on March 30, 2023. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)

What Does the New Bill Mean?

Now the fun starts. The positive duty on workplaces include:

  • Employers promoting “recognition that sexual harassment is driven by gender inequality”—a claim that’s demonstrably false.
  • Before hiring, employers are told to check “a candidate’s support for gender equality.”
  • They are required to train board members and company officers on feminist views of gender equality and sexual harassment.

So, the broader feminist agenda becomes the responsibility of workplaces across the nation—how’s that for a breathtaking sleight of hand?

Naturally, the Commission has found a role for the hordes of corporate HR women. Positive duty now includes a requirement on employers to monitor employees closely—small businesses should “continuously monitor conduct in workplaces” and “observe how staff interact with each other and customers.” What a recipe for creating division and suspicion between employees.

Note that there’s also talk of removing “barriers to reporting,” promoting “victim-centred and gender-responsive reporting of sexual harassment,” and “trauma-informed support” for those making allegations.

Then there are increased sanctions on those accused and increased workers’ compensation payouts for those making allegations.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on Nov. 30, 2022. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on Nov. 30, 2022. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Ms. Jenkins and her group make it clear they believe employers currently investigate allegations too carefully “taking an overly legalistic approach.“ They propose that “criminal standards of proof are not appropriate.”

Instead, they encourage a “speedy investigation process” and “adopting a victim-centred approach.”

Hmm, here are echoes of the kangaroo courts adjudicating sexual misconduct that the feminists already have running in all our universities.

Now across workplaces everywhere, we will see another nice job for HR Departments: making up their own rules, conducting secretive investigations, and determining their chosen outcomes, which can include dismissal of the accused.

In fact, to make dismissal easier, the report recommends changes to the Fair Work Act and increased protection for those who make allegations and are then hauled into court for defamation or similar.

Jenkins Is Not Stopping Here

The final twist in this sorry saga concerns Kate Jenkins. She’s retired from her job as sex discrimination commissioner, but she’s done a brilliant job in ensuring her future employment.

Late last year, she was boasting on Instagram about her masterstroke.

“Having recommended the new positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and other unlawful conduct, I’m now focused on helping employers to meet this duty,” she announced cheerfully.

She’s quite shameless in spruiking masterclasses for teaching corporate boards and executive teams to toe the line, asking, “Who best to fast track your compliance than the people who wrote Respect@Work?”

Ms. Jenkins threw the latest spanner in the works and now she has the affrontery to proclaim she’s best placed to unravel the resulting costly mess of shattered glass and twisted metal.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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