A MARATHON Legislative Council debate has resulted in government amendments to extend anti-discrimination proposals being sent back to the House of Assembly.
Citing freedom of speech concerns, Liberal attorney-general spokeswoman Vanessa Goodwin successfully blocked a proposal to broaden the classes of people that could claim intimidation, humiliation, insult, ridicule or offence.
``The right to freedom of expression is a critical tenant of our democracy and legislative efforts to suppress this fundamental right are wrong,'' Dr Goodwin said, calling the decision a ``win for commonsense''.
Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said free speech was not unlimited.
``While we have to be careful that parliament doesn't set limits that shut down debate . . . what we're trying to do is get people to think before they speak and act, and think is this going to hurt another person, is it going to do them harm?''
Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest said a recent flyer citing incorrect health statistics of homosexual men brought ``sadness to the heart'' of many people, showing the need to broaden protection under the act.
``We quite often get situations where people do distribute material which ridicules people because of disability, or their race, and it's not protected under discrimination law,'' Ms Banks said.
Attorney-General Brian Wightman agreed, saying he had ``difficulty comprehending why we would allow people to have protection from humiliating and insulting conduct on the basis of their gender or marital status yet not on the basis of disability, race, religious belief, age or sexual orientation''.
The issue of faith-based schools was also debated, with the council rejecting a full exclusion of faith-based schools from the act by the narrowest of margins, but accepting a compromise ``exemption'' arrangement.
Elwick MLC Adriana Taylor's exemption proposal was achieved with the support of the government, allowing faith-based schools to seek exemption to favour particular students on religious grounds where there are more students than places.