IN THE FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA
SOUTH WALES DISTRICT REGISTRY
G743 of 1991
ISA MINES LIMITED
members of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY COMMISSION
I am the Secretary of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (hereinafter
referred to as the Commission) and am duly authorised to make this affidavit.
The Commission is a statutory corporation established by Section 7 of the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.
The Commission is charged inter alia with the administration of the Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 and the Sex Discrimination Act
relief sought by the applicant relates to the interpretation and application of
the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 and the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984.
Functions of the Commission are conferred by Sections 11(1) and 31 of the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 and Section 48(1) of the
Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
At the time of the enactment of the Sex Discrimination Act, Section 40 of the
Act operated to exempt all State legislation restricting the employment of women
in the lead industry from the application of the Act for a two year period until
1 August 1988. This exemption was subsequently extended by regulation to 1 August
1988 for those States which so requested, being all States except South Australia.
The exemption was then extended to 31 July 1989 for New South Wales, Western Australia,
Queensland and Tasmania. The exemption for New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania
was further extended by way of regulation to 31 July 1991. It has not been extended
its establishment the Commission has been continuously involved in issues relating
to the employment of women in the lead industry. This involvement stems from two
the consideration of exemption applications pursuant to Section 44 of the Sex
Discrimination Act by companies operating in States in which no exemption
applies in respect of the industrial legislation of that State; and
liaison with the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (herein referred
to as "Worksafe") in the preparation of the lead standard.
In relation to the exemption of the lead processing industry from the provisions
of the Sex Discrimination Act the involvement of the Commission has been
On 10 October 1987 Broken Hill Associated Smelters (hereinafter referred to as
BHAS) made application to the Commission for an exemption from the provisions
of the Sex Discrimination Act in relation to the employment of women processors,
contract workers and apprentices in or about any process involving exposure to
dust, mist, fumes or gases containing a lead material or compound in the BHAS
plant at Port Pirie. On 26 May 1988 the Commission granted BHAS a conditional
exemption from the provisions of Sections 14, 16 and 86 of the Sex Discrimination
Act for a period of nine months. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter
"A" is a copy of the Notice of Grant of Exemption which was published
in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. GN 22 on 22 June 1988.
application followed a previous exemption application which had been made to the
Equal Opportunity Tribunal of South Australia (hereinafter called the Tribunal)
for a similar exemption from the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984
(S.A.) pursuant to Section 92 of that Act. That application was heard by the
Tribunal on 25 August 1987. On 16 September 1990 the Tribunal granted an exemption
to BHAS conditional upon BHAS reporting to the Tribunal no later than 1 March
1989 as to action taken by BHAS and progress made in relation to the employment
of women at the Port Pirie plant.
On 15 November 1988 BHAS made an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
for review of the nine month exemption. The Commission was a respondent to this
application. On 17 February 1989 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal set aside
the decision of the Commission and granted an exemption to BHAS until 16 September
1990 to coincide with the exemption that had been granted by the South Australian
Equal Opportunity Tribunal. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal directed BHAS
to submit to the Commission a copy of the report which it had submitted to the
South Australian Equal Opportunity Tribunal together with any communication received
by BHAS from that Tribunal which related to the exemption granted by that Tribunal.
BHAS was also directed to file with the Commission a report detailing action taken
in relation to the employment of women at the Port Pirie plant. Annexed hereto
and marked with the letter "B" is a copy of the decision of the Administrative
During 1988 a number of other companies involved in the lead industry, namely
the applicant herein and Australian Refined Alloys Pty Ltd (Brooklyn, Victoria),
Ferro Corporation (Aust) Pty Ltd (West Footscray, Victoria), Electrolytic Zinc
Co of A/Asia Ltd (Risdon, Tasmania) and Pacific Dunlop Batteries (Australian Division
of Pacific Dunlop Ltd Sandringham and Geelong, Victoria; Elizabeth South Australia)
made application to the Commission for exemptions pursuant to section 44 of the
Sex Discrimination Act. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter "C"
is a copy of a Public Notice prepared by the Commission which was published in
a number of Australian newspapers in February 1989. All applications were subsequently
withdrawn pending finalisation of the Worksafe Guidelines on the Control and Safe
Use of Lead at Work. Accordingly no exemption from the provisions of the Sex Discrimination
Act has been or is currently applicable in respect of those companies.
On 11 September 1990 BHAS notified the Commission that it was seeking a further
exemption pursuant to Section 44 from the application of the Sex Discrimination
Act for a period of three years. The Commission called for submissions in
a Public Notice which was published in The Australian newspaper and the Port Pirie
News in September 1990. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter "D"
is a copy of the Public Notice as prepared by the Commission. At the same time
BHAS made a similar application for exemption from the provisions of the Equal
Opportunity Act 1984 (S.A.) to the South Australian Tribunal.
On 12 December 1990 the Tribunal and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on behalf
of the Commission, conducted a joint hearing into the application. BHAS requested
that, pending a final decision by the Commission, an interim exemption be granted.
On 4 February 1991 the Commission agreed to grant an interim exemption until 31
May 1991 pending the finalisation of the report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner
to the Commission. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter "E" is
a copy of the Notice of Grant of Exemption which was published in the Commonwealth
of Australia Gazette GN 11 on 20 March 1991.
On 14 May 1991 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner presented her report to the
Commission. On the same day the Commission resolved to grant to BHAS a conditional
exemption from the operation of sections 14 and 16 of the Sex Discrimination Act
to expire on 31 December 1992. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter "Fe
is a copy of the Notice of Grant of Exemption which was published in the Commonwealth
of Australia Gazette GN 22 on 12 June 1991.
In relation to the preparation of the lead standard the Commission has been involved
Since its establishment and the establishment of the National Occupational Health
and Safety Commission, subsequently known as Worksafe, in 1986, at which time
Worksafe was requested to develop an occupational national lead standard, the
Commission has liaised continually with Worksafe in the development of the lead
In October 1986 the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner attended a conference
on legislative restrictions and awards at which the exemptions applying to employers
by virtue of Section 40 of the Sex Discrimination Act were discussed. The conference
discussed the issue of restrictions on women within the lead industry. The Commission,
the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Confederation of Australian
Industry (CAI) and participating State governments supported the proposal that
Worksafe should develop a national code of practice for work in lead processing.
In November 1988 Worksafe held a national workshop on the safe use of lead which
was attended by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. At the conclusion of the
Workshop it was agreed that a draft discussion paper and a Proposed National Standard
and Code of Practice would be further developed taking into account the views
expressed at the workshop and that a tripartite study group, which would include
a representative of the Commission, would visit workplaces employing lead processes.
On 16 and 17 March 1989 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner visited the Mount
Isa mines of the applicant together with representatives from the ACTU, CAI, State
Occupational Health Commissions, the Australian College of Occupational Medicine,
State Equal Opportunity bodies and Worksafe.
In March 1990 the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission convened a National
Workshop on Women and Lead. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner presented a paper
to that Workshop.
In March 1990 Worksafe released 'Lead - A Public Discussion Paper" and called
for public submissions in response to the document. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner
prepared and forwarded a detailed submission in response.
On 9 August 1990 Worksafe held a "Lead Forum" where discussion of the
Worksafe document took place. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner addressed that
In July 1991 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner delivered a paper on the lead
industry and foetal protection policies in the United States and Australia to
the Women, Management and Industrial Relations Conference held at Macquarie University.
On 14 November 1991 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and I attended a meeting
of the Worksafe Lead Task Force to discuss further the provisions in the proposed
National Standard and Code dealing with the employment of women in the lead industry.
At that meeting the Task Force reached substantial agreement on the provisions.
Annexed hereto and marked with the letter "G" is a copy of a booklet
produced by the Commissioner which contains copies of the address by the Sex Discrimination
Commissioner to the Lead Forum in August 1990 and the submission made by the Commission
SWORN by the deponent
at SYDNEY on the 24th day of December, 1991
OF SUBMISSIONS FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND EOUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
Structure of Sex Discrimination Act
Certain practices (principally indirect discrimination) are prohibited subject
to an exception relating to reasonableness. See, e.g. paragraphs 5(2)(b), 6(2)(b),
7(1)(b), 7(2)(b) . In the case of paragraph 7(1)(b), an exception relating to
reasonableness is imposed in relation to direct discrimination on the ground of
pregnancy. These provisions raise an expressio unius in relation to the
absence of such an exception in the case of direct discrimination in breach of
sub-sections 5(1) or 6(1).
The mitigating factor in relation to such discrimination lies in the power of
the HREOC to grant exemptions under section 44.
Relationship Between Sex Discrimination Act and Worksafe Legislation
There is no inconsistency between an act laying down specific prohibitions and
rules of conduct in the sexual discrimination area and an act requiring the promulgation
of occupational codes. See Butler v. A.-G. (1961) 106 CLR 268 at 276; Suatu v.
Aust Postal Commission (1989) 86 ALR 532 at 546; South Australia v. Tanner (1988)
166 CLR 161.
The consistency lies in the fact that the National Occupational Health and Safety
Commission ("Worksafe"), like any other governmental or non governmental
body, is bound to obey the law. See Waters v. Public Transport Corporation,
unreported High Court 3.12.91, per McHugh J. at 57. The law includes the Sex Discrimination
Act. Where it lays down standards, those standards must not require breaches of
any applicable law. To require such a breach would involve Worksafe in a breach
of Section 5 of the Crimes Act, 1914 (C'th).
The HREOC does not have any monopoly of determining what is in breach of the Sex
Discrimination Act any more than any governmental or non-governmental body has
a monopoly of determining what is in breach of any act. Where a person is performing
a statutory duty (or, for that matter any statutory or non-statutory duty or act),
he or she has an obligation to determine whether what is being done involves a
breach of the law. For that purpose it may be necessary to interpret a statute.
Worksafe is doing no more than this.
The proposed national standard
Paragraph 12.1(d) of the Code and paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Standard both comply
with the relevant law.
The affidavit of Mr Sidoti shows that exemptions have been promulgated by the
HREOC in this area. Subject to those exemptions, any standard or code laid down
by Worksafe must comply with the Sex Discrimination Act.
5 February 1992
Bennett and Ruth McColl
Counsel for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
updated 21 May 2003.