From the Commissioner - Political conviction vs political correctness
Recently a story out of Melbourne caught my attention. It was about a mother searching for a rental property on Gumtree.
She found a nice place advertised on the Gumtree site; the only problem was the advertisement stipulated only vegan families should apply.
The story goes on to state that ‘under Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation, the advertisement could technically be illegal, as the veganism requirement falls under ‘political opinion’.
Further to that story, a Facebook poll showed members of the public believed the ad was discrimination – but was the ad unlawful discrimination?
For discrimination to be unlawful under federal, state or territory discrimination legislation, it needs to fit under one or more of the grounds covered by that legislation and to have occurred in a relevant area of public life.
The WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act), has several grounds that apply to the area of accommodation, which a rental property would fall under, and political conviction is one of them. It includes having a lack of political conviction.
However, is being vegan a political conviction? And if so, does not being vegan mean that a person lacks that political conviction?
The story suggests as much, but for a person’s discrimination complaint to be successful, that person would have to prove being vegan is intrinsically linked to the discriminator’s political beliefs.
If a vegan family had been excluded from a rental property, they would also have to prove their choice to not consume animal products was intrinsically linked to their political beliefs if the family wanted to show political conviction discrimination.
Political activists linked to established animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), may be able to demonstrate being a vegan is intrinsically linked to their political conviction. However, they would need to link being vegan to their beliefs concerning the structure, purpose, obligations, duties or some other aspect of government. Or they may be active members of an established political group and that is the reason for their dietary requirements.
Before making a complaint to either the Australian Human Rights Commission, or one of the state or territory anti-discrimination agencies such as the WA Equal Opportunity Commission, it is worth considering whether the discrimination is lawful or unlawful – that is, does it fall under a relevant ground and area of relevant anti-discrimination legislation, and can they demonstrate this?
Similarly, when it comes to what someone chooses to eat or not eat, they should consider if their motivation is political correctness or political conviction.