Labor amendments not enough to redeem flawed Religious Discrimination Bill

Labor’s proposed amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill are welcome, but not enough to redeem a Religious Discrimination Bill that will still promote division and discrimination.

‘From reports we’ve seen about Labor’s amendments, they will not fix this flawed Bill. We will still have an Act that allows discrimination against LGBT teachers, while entrenching the rights of religious organisations to discriminate – rather than protecting people against discrimination. The Bill should still be rejected,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

Statements of belief clause should be removed altogether

PIAC Policy Manager, Alastair Lawrie said Labor’s proposed approach to the statement of belief clause was likely to be an improvement to the Bill, but the better approach was that the clause was removed altogether.

‘While we need to see the detail, this amendment should ensure religiously-motivated demeaning and derogatory comments against women, LGBT people and people with disability are not legally protected. But it may still leave people of minority faiths exposed to harmful statements. Removing this clause entirely would send a stronger message that derogatory comments by people faith and no faith alike, are never acceptable,’ said Mr Lawrie.

LGBT students and staff should be fully protected

PIAC also welcomes Labor’s announcement they will strengthen protections for LGBT students in religious schools under the Sex Discrimination Act. However, it remains unclear whether Labor will propose amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill to remove the ability of religious schools to continue to discriminate against LGBT students under that legislation, under the guise of religious views.

‘Supporting amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act without fixing the problems in the Religious Discrimination Bill may ultimately lead to no material improvement for LGBT students,’ said Mr Lawrie.

‘It is also deeply frustrating Labor is not proposing amendments to protect LGBT staff in religious schools, who should be chosen on ability, not sexual orientation or gender identity. This is not a complex issue: LGBT teachers have been protected in Tasmania for decades, and the ACT since 2019. They deserve protection immediately, rather than waiting for the ALRC,’ said Mr Lawrie.

Retaining clause 11 in the Religious Discrimination Bill also means that teachers in Queensland, Victoria and elsewhere stand to lose existing rights in the meantime.

Aged care tweak doesn’t defuse the dangers of religious exceptions

Labor’s proposed minor amendment in relation to in-home aged care service provision is also an improvement, but does not address the dangers of allowing service providers to discriminate against workers on the basis of faith.

‘Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist workers at large religious service-delivery organisations could still be denied employment, promotions and training simply because of who they are’, said Mr Hunyor.

‘Labor’s proposed amendments do not adequately address the religious exceptions in the Bill, which are broader and more lenient, than in any other anti-discrimination law in Australia. This  is another reason why Labor’s changes are not enough to save this seriously flawed legislation’ concluded Mr Hunyor.

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

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