Shouldn't we have equality?
THIS week's High Court Ruling upholding the Queensland Courts' decision to bar a deaf woman from jury duty is disappointing. However, blame should not be levelled at the High Court, for they were only upholding the law as it currently stands. The ruling highlights that as far as equality goes, our legislators have far to go to rectify past attitudes that remain in the statutes.
It seems that parliaments are so focussed on matters economic, other areas of reform are pushed to the side. It would be hard to argue that every single Parliamentarian is so employed on the economic agenda that they have little time to focus on other issues needing attention.
This week's High Court ruling should act as a wake-up call to the state Attorneys-General to examine the statutes and rid them of these antiquated provisions. If our society has progressed to the stage where disabled people aren't all treated like they are mentally deficient, then it is time our laws caught up. It is an outdated attitude to regard a signing interpreter as an unwanted influence in the jury room. Modern thinking would clearly regard an interpreter as no more than a communication tool. It makes me wonder what other disabilities would be discriminated against by the courts.
There are several other practices instigated by parliaments past that need to be corrected. Practices that still discriminate against sections of our society.
And then we come to an issue personally close to my heart: the old policy of discrimination against unwed mothers and their offspring. Those kids lucky enough not to be taken from their mothers still suffered the indignity of having their full identities stolen from them. Because in the times of the male-only parliaments, men thought it proper to deny unwed mothers the right to put the father's name on the child's birth records.
There are many now adults who have had to go through life with only half-completed birth certificates and little knowledge of their identities. It has taken the Queensland Parliament many years to make a half-hearted attempt to address this injustice. Affected children can now apply retrospectively to have their fathers' names included but the law still favours those men who deny their children. For those who are unfortunate enough to have fathers who refuse to acknowledge paternity, then the trauma of Supreme Court action awaits these poor kids. Proof rests with them rather than the deadbeat dads.
Surely, the time of Government, Opposition and crossbench backbenchers can be better utilised. On these important social reforms, the time has come to bridge the party divides and put all the backbenchers to work on amending these aspects of the laws, seeing the ministers are all too busy on the economic stuff. Quite frankly, the common people aren't that concerned about who does it, as long as someone does. Governments wanting to take credit for things is just the nature of the beast but often, that attitude just stifles things from getting done.
Parliaments amending legislation to remove discrimination against the disabled and the "illegitimate” from the statutes will not improve a state's credit rating by even one fraction of a percentage point. But that doesn't mean that parliaments don't have the capacity to act swifter than they do on social reforms. Who knows? Getting backbenchers to do some of the legislative groundworks might end the popular perception that a lot of them are just seat warmers who achieve little.
A couple of decades on from the term "deaf and dumb” vanishing from popular use, a woman with hearing impairments should no longer be treated as such by the laws of the land.
The onus now falls upon today's legislators to act quickly to change these ridiculous provisions remaining in law.
Don't put them off like they are some outer-suburban rail project.