“All the crazies come out” Senator Susan McDonald dismisses concerns about Religious Discrimination bill

Appearing on the Sky News program Paul Murray Live on Sunday night Queensland Senator Susan McDonald dismissed suggestions that the Religious Discrimination bill could allow for discrimination against women, LGBTIQA+ people, or people with disabilities.

“We’ve got race, sex, pregnancy and age, protections for people on a whole lot of levels, and when we want to introduce one for people who hold religious beliefs we were hearing some crazy examples.” Senator McDonald said in a discussion with host Paul Murray.

“Firstly you’d have to find a religion that believes in some of the things that might stem, and then the second thing is the protections only go so far in allowing you to make a statement of fact. It doesn’t allow you to persecute someone in the workplace, or harass them, or vilify them.

“This is very well considered and balanced legislation but we’re going to hear all the crazies come out and imagine every doomsday scenario.” Senator McDonald said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced the third version of the long promised legislation into parliament last week, but concern that bill is still problematic has been raised by advocacy groups and some moderate Liberals.

At the end of the week the Prime Minister agreed to refer the bill to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and asked them to look at the bill, and report back by 4th February 2022. The bill is still listed for debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, but it is not expected to be put to a vote before the committee report is delivered.

Brian Greig from advocacy group Just.Equal has described the proposed legislation as the biggest ever attack on the nation’s anti-discrimination protections.

“This Bill is the biggest attack on anti-discriminations laws in Australia’s history. It overrides federal and state anti-discrimination laws and allows humiliating and demeaning comments done in the name of religion.”

“The Bill could allow discrimination, not just against LGBTIQ+ students and teachers, but anyone working for a faith-based hospital or charity and who falls foul of traditional religious dogma.”

“Those who will suffer loss of existing rights under the Religious Discrimination Bill are women, people with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ people, those from minority faiths and anyone who is the target of religious stigma.” Greig said.

Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, said the latest version of the legislation still contained some of the worst features of earlier drafts.

“The Morrison Government has retained some of the worst provisions of the Bill, including damaging statements of belief provisions that would override existing state and territory anti-discrimination protections. These provisions undermine everyone’s right to respect and dignity at work, school and whenever they access goods and services like healthcare.” Brown said last week.

Graeme Watson

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