Religious Discrimination Bill: radical and flawed

The Government’s Exposure Draft Religious Discrimination Bill represents a radical step that will undermine existing anti-discrimination protections and the integrity of Australia’s anti-discrimination law regime.

PIAC released a detailed submission on the bill today, available here.

‘A Religious Discrimination Bill is, in principle, a good idea. But the major flaws in the model put forward mean that PIAC cannot support the Bill,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

‘The government has tied itself in knots trying to privilege the expression of religious views over the rights of others – including women, LGBTI people, single parents and people with disability – to live free of discrimination. This has resulted in novel, complex and confusing provisions that mean people – including employers and small business operators – won’t know where they stand,’ said Mr Hunyor.

The Bill also takes the extraordinary step of overriding existing protection in Commonwealth, State and Territory laws from discrimination on the basis of grounds including race, sex, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to religious ‘statements of belief’.

‘The existing regime of coexisting laws at a Commonwealth and State and Territory level has enjoyed support from successive governments over decades and has allowed improvement over time in the protection of rights by respecting local variations. By over-riding state and territory anti-discrimination law, this Bill significantly, even radically, overturns established norms and principles of our system of protection from discrimination and good law-making itself,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

‘In practice, the Bill means Australians will, in many situations, no longer have protection from being humiliated, intimidated, or ridiculed by people making religious ‘statements of belief,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

PIAC is also concerned about the Bill’s ‘conscientious objection’ provisions on access to a wide range of health services – including reproductive health, alongside services like optometry, physiotherapy and podiatry – for women as well as specific groups (such as single women, lesbian couples and transgender people).

Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280


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