By Andrew Starke

Single sex clubs in Victoria will no longer be able to discriminate against a broad range of groups under upcoming law changes by the Brumby Labor Government.

Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said while single sex clubs would be allowed to continue to discriminate on the basis of gender, they would no longer be able to reject members on the basis of any other attribute, such as race, sexuality, or political or religious beliefs.

“There are various community views on this issue and I believe we have struck the right balance to limit the ability of single sex clubs to discriminate at whim against a whole range of people,” Hulls said.

“Under our proposed changes, single sex clubs no longer will be able to ban members on the basis of attributes such as being gay, Muslim, Jewish, black, elderly or disabled.

The changes mean that single sex clubs will be able to continue operating as such but will have to make their membership rules publicly available.

They will also no longer be able to discriminate on the basis of any attribute, including gender, when employing staff.

Hulls said the government had received advice that attempting to ban single sex clubs would be inconsistent with the Federal Sex Discrimination Act, which contains an exception for single sex clubs.

“Obviously it is a matter for the Commonwealth Government to decide whether to amend their Sex Discrimination Act in relation to single sex clubs and, if they took such action, all states including Victoria would have to review this exception,” he said.

Hulls said the Government’s position reflected the recommendations made by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, which suggested a narrower exception for private clubs.

“Other clubs that cater to minority cultures or specific age groups will continue to be able to operate under existing exceptions, which means they can discriminate on the basis for which the club has been set up – for example, an Italian club preferring Italian members – but not on the basis of any other attribute, such as being gay or disabled,” he said.

“My main concern has always been about the lack of accountability of private clubs and this reform will ensure the reasons for any discrimination are publicly stated and justifiable.”

The Shout Team

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