Labor to progress removal of anti-discrimination exemptions for LGBTI kids

Labor will introduce a Private Members Bill to remove exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 that allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI students.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
LABOR TO PROGRESS REMOVAL OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION EXEMPTIONS FOR LGBTI KIDS
 

Labor will introduce a Private Members Bill to remove exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 that allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI students.
 
The government promised to resolve this issue before the end of the year, but they’ve not achieved that. Given the government’s refusal to proceed with a simple removal of the relevant exemptions, Labor will seek to do it for them.
 
Labor’s bill will be a simple removal of relevant exemptions from the Act. Labor does not believe that additional measures that expand the grounds for indirect discrimination for religious schools, as proposed by the government, are necessary.
 
I will write to the Attorney-General later today, urging the government to join Labor in support for this bill.
 
In the week before the Wentworth by-election, the Prime Minister promised to remove exemptions that relate to LGBTI students. He has failed to achieve that goal.
 
Labor wants this done before Christmas. The public expects this. The depth of public reaction to leaked elements of the Ruddock review showed that Australians want these exemptions removed, and as soon as possible.
 
Once again, Scott Morrison has said one thing, but done another. He has failed to follow through on his commitment to protecting children against discrimination.
 
There is support across the Parliament on this issue. There is no reason why it cannot be progressed and resolution achieved over the next two weeks.
 
Evidence gathered by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee over the past fortnight shows that overwhelmingly religious schools do not use these exemptions, and do not want them.
 
The committee’s recommendation was that the Australian Government amend section 37 and remove subsection 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Labor will progress that recommendation.
 
Extraordinarily, a group of coalition Senators dissented from that recommendation – apparently rejecting the pledge made by their Prime Minister and the legislation put forward by their Attorney-General.
 
Labor also remains committed to the removal of exemptions relevant to LGBTI staff in religious schools. We recognise – as did the committee – that this is a more complex proposition which requires consequential amendments to other legislation such as the Fair Work Act. Labor pledges to progress this issue.

As per the recommendations of that committee, Labor thinks it appropriate that the Parliament consider inserting in law a positive affirmation and protection of religious freedom in Australia that is appropriately balanced with other rights. Labor calls on the government to progress this, and to release the Ruddock Review into religious freedom without further delay.

The removal of exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 that relate to discrimination against LGBTI students in no way jeopardises the ability of religious schools to operate their schools according to the tenets of their religion.

Schools will continue to regulate the behaviour of their children through school rules, as they have for decades. Labor has had constructive dialogue with both LGBTI groups and religious educational institutions, and will continue to engage with these groups over coming weeks.

TUESDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2018