NSW Anti-Discrimination Board without board members for 10 months

October 9, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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The NSW Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch has criticised the State’s A-G Gabrielle Upton for failing to review paper work needed to fill vacancies in Government boards including the Anti-Discrimination Board.

Questioning by NSW Labor during Supplementary Budget Estimate hearings revealed the State’s Anti-Discrimination Board has not had any board members for the last ten months operating with sole chairperson Elizabeth Wing since December 2015.

Gabrielle Upton Photo: Henry Benjamin

Gabrielle Upton Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Earlier Budget Estimate hearings in September also revealed that the board of the Legal Aid Commission had been vacant for four months earlier this year.

Appointments for the two boards are a statutory requirement that must be filled by Attorney General Gabrielle Upton and the Department of Justice.

The lack of a board for the Anti-discrimination Board is particularly troubling considering the Government’s failure to amend section 20 of the racial vilification provision.

Despite much fanfare at the end of 2015, Ms Upton has not provided any new action to amend the legislation.

Paul Lynch said: “The Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) is too important a body for its files to be gathering dust on the Attorney-General’s desk.

Failing for 10 months to fill vacancies reflects the Government’s disinterest in fighting discrimination. They have known literally for years that these positions were becoming vacant. They are statutory positions. The Government can’t pretend they don’t exist.

Paul Lynch

Paul Lynch

This parallels the Attorney’s promise to introduce legislation to amend s20D of the Act last year and her failure to do so.

This failure to fill vacancies reflects the torpor and sloth of the Attorney’s office.”

Walt Secord, the Deputy of the Opposition and Deputy Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel accused the Baird Government of failing to fill the vacancies and by refusing to act on calls to toughen the State’s anti-race hate laws – to appease extreme elements in the NSW Liberals and National parties.

Appointments for the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board are a statutory requirement that must be filled by the Attorney General.

Mr Secord also criticised Mrs Upton’s failure to honour her promise to amend the State’s anti-race hate laws. There have been about 30 separate cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but there has not been a single prosecution in NSW for racial vilification or advocating violence against members of the community on the basis of their race, gender or sexual orientation. Clearly, the laws are needed to be improved.

Walt Secord

Walt Secord

Mr Secord said he was concerned about the delay in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board appointments in light of the Baird Government’s failure to amend section 20D of the racial vilification provision – and toughen up the State’s anti-race hate laws.

Secord added: In these times, we need a strong and fully supported Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW to represent and protect the interests of NSW’s diverse communities.”

“Leaving these board positions vacant is irresponsible and sadly, the Baird Government does not want to be seen to be protecting the interests of minority groups in these current political times. They are pandering to extreme elements in the NSW Liberal and National parties.”

“The Baird Government is stalling on the appointments to the Anti-Discrimination Board.”

“Unfortunately, the Baird Government also does not want to step up and respond to community concerns about the need for tough anti-race hate laws. It has been almost 28 years since the original anti-race hate laws were passed by then-Premier Nick Greiner with the support of the Labor opposition. At the time, it had the strong support for the various community groups in NSW, including the NSW Jewish community. There is an urgent need for reform and a toughening up of the laws.”

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton told J-Wire: “The Acting President of the Anti-Discrimination Board is continuing to carry out functions of the organisation to serve the community.

We expect to fill the board positions soon.”

Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian – served as Part-time president from January 30, 2014  to January 29, 2016 and the current executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry  Peter Wertheim served as a member from  2004 to December 18, 2015
The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies has declined to comment.

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