Equality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation: An Uneasy Relationship

Margaret Thornton   | Bio
Emerita Professor and Public Policy Fellow in the ANU College of Law. Australian National University, Canberra.


Despite the rhetoric of equality that infuses anti-discrimination legislation, a close analysis reveals that it is in-equality that is invariably privileged. With reference to the Australian example, this introductory article will show how the paradox is played out at multiple sites in terms of both form and substance, such as through the individualism and confidentiality of the complaint-based mechanism. A striking exclusion from the legislation is the attribute of class, the most significant manifestation of social inequality, which remains ineffable even when it significantly shapes other attributes. The prevailing political backdrop of neoliberalism plays a significant role in promoting inequality through competition policy and profit maximisation. Powerful corporations not only endeavour to resist transparency, but they also tend to oppose proactive measures in favour of substantive equality. The contradictions of anti-discrimination legislation thereby sustain in-equality while simultaneously espousing the rhetoric of equality.


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How to Cite
Thornton M. Equality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation: An Uneasy Relationship . LiC [Internet]. 2021Aug.28 [cited 2022May24];37(2):12-6. Available from: https://journals.latrobe.edu.au/index.php/law-in-context/article/view/149

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