Media release – Cassy O’Connor MP, 3 December 2021

On International Day of People with Disability, Tasmania’s Attorney General has Abandoned State’s Disability Protections

Protections for people living with a disability are under threat from a High Court case with its origins in Tasmania, but newly filed court documents show Attorney-General Elise Archer has yet again failed to speak up for Tasmanians and Tasmanian law.

Upon learning in 2016 that the Parliament Square precinct development would not be fully disability accessible, David Cawthorn took a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Since then, he’s been bravely fighting for the rights of all Tasmanians living with disability, through the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the Supreme Court – which unanimously found in his favour – and now in the High Court.

Despite repeated requests from Mr Cawthorn and his lawyers, Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer refused to intervene to support David Cawthorn in his David and Goliath struggle. That is until she supported the developer’s push to have the case heard in the High Court.

Ever since the Greens first questioned the Attorney-General about her decision to support the developer’s case being heard, Elise Archer has said she had no choice to intervene to a resolve an important constitutional question. But new court documents show that on the crucial question of whether Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 is constitutionally valid, her submission to the High Court is completely silent.

As first law officer of the land, Elise Archer should be defending Tasmanian law and the Tasmanians it protects. Not doing so is a serious abrogation of her responsibilities.

To add insult to injury, the Attorney General argues in her submission to the High Court that three of Tasmania’s most esteemed judges – Justices Blow, Wood and Estcourt – got it wrong in last year deciding in favour of Mr Cawthorn to have his matter heard before the state’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

Meanwhile, other states like Queensland and South Australia have done what Elise Archer should have, and made arguments in favour of the validity of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998.

The Attorney-General might try to hide behind legal jargon, but the court documents don’t lie. She’s hung David Cawthorn and every Tasmanian with a disability out to dry, and with them one of state’s most protective statutes.

Today, on International Day for People with Disability, Elise Archer must explain why she’s refused to stand by Tasmanians with disability, Tasmanian law and the full bench of the Supreme Court.