Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the coalition will pass a bill on religious discrimination. In an earlier letter to religious leaders, he said giving an account would require “a consensus.”
But when asked during his visit to Tasmania whether a religious discrimination bill was “dead in the water”, he replied:
“No, I have been clear and have written to religious leaders across the country. I was devastated that that was not adopted along with faith communities. It was a big disappointment for me. But what I propose to do and have made very clear is that I will take it further, but I will take it further as a standalone piece of legislation. It will deal with the RDA and will not deal with other issues. It will just have to do with that problem. And that is what I intend to do.”
He also clarified his position in a letter to the conservative Christian lobby group Family Voice. “If reelected, we will seek to pass the Religious Discrimination Act as standalone legislation in the next Parliament and will not accept any attempt to change other laws that undermine the protection of religious institutions.
“I want to assure you that ensuring Australians are free from discrimination based on their religion remains a priority for my government and me. Nor will I allow this issue to be used by Labor and the Greens to undermine existing protections.”
This pledge commits the prime minister to a religious discrimination law that leaves the exceptions in the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) intact. Section 38(3) of the SDA, which gives religious schools freedom of action regarding the enrollment and discipline of LGBTIQ students, has been the target of amendments tabled by independent Rebekha Sharkie in the last parliament. Five Liberals supported the amendment, prompting the Morrison government to withdraw the bill.
By not promising changes to other laws, the Prime Minister is taking a more conservative stance than last time, when the government agreed to amend SDA Section 38(3) to prevent discrimination in schools that enroll gays and lesbians.
By giving this assurance, the prime minister is counting on having the numbers to push the bill through parliament with fewer dissidents in his ranks.
These announcements give conservative Christians who support the Religious Discrimination Act a clear option to vote for a major party ahead of the last parliament.
A Labor spokesman tells Eternity that an Albanian government would give religious schools the right to prefer staff of faith. They will not adopt the Victorian model of ‘inherent requirements. But (as previously announced), the ALP is committed to a stakeholder consultation process and getting the Australian Law Reform Commission to review the SDA waivers.
Their policies are based on these principles:
• Prevent discrimination against religious people, including protection against slander.
• Acting to protect all students from discrimination on any ground; and
• Protect teachers from workplace discrimination while preserving religious schools’ right to favor people of their faith in staff selection.
Eternity understands that a bill on religious discrimination is a priority for Labor and will be passed in the first term of the Albanian government. Labor has given this assurance in writing to various religious groups.
The Greens have announced a plan to bolster protections for LGBTIQ people by amending the Gender Discrimination Act, removing exemptions for religious schools for staff and students.