89 organisations have voiced concern about Mark Latham’s anti-discrimination bill

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has joined 89 organisations in a joint statement and new website opposing One Nation’s Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 (the Bill) and supporting laws in NSW that protect everyone equally.

Today the a joint select committee in the New South Wales parliament has begun hearings relating to the bill.

In August, ALHR made a detailed submission to the NSW Joint Select Committee condemning the proposed reforms as inconsistent with Australia’s international human rights law obligations. ALHR President Kerry Weste described the bill put forward by One Nation’s NSW leader Mark Latham as deeply flawed.

“This is a deeply flawed Bill that, if passed, will privilege and protect religiously-based discrimination by organisations over the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination.”

In ALHR’s view, among the Bill’s most concerning aspects, is the fact it would protect not only discriminatory behaviour, but any wrong-doing short of criminal behaviour, so long as it could be argued to be religiously-based.

Weste also says the Bill also contains provisions that risk enabling religious organisations to challenge any NSW program or law if it is contrary to the religious doctrine of that organisation and regardless of government’s legitimate policy objectives.

There is also concern that further provisions in the Bill risk creating double standards in employment, education and service delivery, and create protected activities and exclusions clauses that allow for harmful discriminatory conduct.

“The Bill is deeply flawed from a human rights perspective and would create impractical and unprecedented protections for discrimination. ALHR strongly supports legislation that provides protections against religious discrimination and is consistent with international human rights law standards. However, this Bill is neither consistent with international human rights law standards or community expectations.

“There is no absolute right under international human rights law to manifest or act upon one’s religious belief in a way that impacts upon others. Religious freedom does not mean freedom to visit harm upon others in the name of one’s own religion. But that is what this Bill, if passed, would enshrine in New South Wales law.”

The ALHR says Latham’s bill is a “free pass to cause harm”.

“Australian society should not tolerate every behaviour that is religiously motivated, just by reason of that motivation. Our laws should not protect behaviour that is discriminatory and likely to most heavily impact already vulnerable groups, such as members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

“Religious organisations have a duty of care to their students and employees and this legislation essentially creates a ‘free pass’ to cause harm. True freedom of religion is incompatible with discrimination.”

“Australian legislation and judicial decisions should adhere to international human rights obligations to protect all human rights equally. The appropriate balance between freedom of religion or belief and other freedoms in NSW would best be served by the passage of a Human Rights Act both in NSW and at the federal level.”

“Victoria, the ACT and Queensland have each passed a Human Rights Act. NSW continues to lag behind more progressive states in recognising the need for a legislated human rights mechanism that protects the human rights of all people equally,’ Weste said.

OIP Staff

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