Catholic schools call for Religious Discrimination law plan

The National Catholic Education Commission has called on both major parties to clarify how they will bring forward federal legislation for Religious Discrimination.

Former Labor Minister Jacinta Collins, who heads the group, has written to both leaders asking them to finalise legislation within their first 100 days of a new parliamentary term.

The Morrison government had vowed to deliver the long promised legislation during their previous term of government, but pulled the legislation from debate when it became clear that their proposed laws did not have the support of some of their own members, or the opposition.

Five Liberal MPs crossed the floor and voted in favour of amendments to the interlinked Sex Discrimination Act, so gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students would have greater protections. The government pulled the bill when it became clear that the amendments might have also gained support in the senate.

While the legislation appears to be off the political agenda, Collins says it needs to be discussed so Australia has a full suite of protections at a federal level.

The NCEC represents more than 785,000 students from 465,000 families and employs more than 102,000 staff in 1755 Catholic schools.

Collins told The Australian that her organisation had no problem with the proposed changes to the Sex Discrimination Act.

Just.Equal Australia is another organisation calling on the ALP to explain exactly what a finalised Albanese Government Religious Discrimination Bill will contain.
Just.Equal spokesperson, Brian Greig, said his group wrote to Shadow-Attorney General Mark Dreyfus five weeks ago asking four specific questions on the same issue, but had not received a reply.
“Given it seems likely that Labor will respond to the NCEC by 29 April, Just Equal is insisting on the same courtesy, and has referred Mr Dreyfus to our earlier correspondence,” Greig said.
Just.Equal is keen to know if Labor will allow discrimination by faith-based schools against the LGBTQ teachers at the point of recruitment or allow faith-based schools to disciminate against LGBTQ students on the basis of religious belief.
There is also concern about how religious discrimination laws would operate in our services operated by  faith-based services, and if any federal legislation will override Tasmania’s current laws.
“Obviously, we are hoping Labor will respond saying its Religious Discrimination Bill would not allow discrimination under the guise of ‘religious belief’ or weaken any existing discrimination protections.”
“Labor’s answers to our four questions can then be shared with our national supporter base and the LGBTIQ+ community prior to polling day.” Greig said.
Christian Schools Australia’s director of public policy, Mark Spencer, said they had also sought a commitment from both parties to reintroduce the bill, but they would like to see it reintroduced in its original form.
Speaking to The Guardian Spencer warned the Labor party against the “strong temptation to want to put its stamp on a piece of legislation” that had already been the subject of “extensive consultation”.
Conservative group Family Voice Australia have also pushed both parties to commit to the bill without any of the proposed amendements.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he personally remained committed to combatting religious discrimination, but would not commit to guaranteed the legislation would be re-introduced in the next parliament.

“My views about protecting people against religious discrimination are well known, and my credibility on those issues are not challenged or under question.

“And I hold those views just as strongly today as I always have throughout my entire life.” the Prime Minister said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has briefly commented on the legislation saying his party remains committed, but has not provided any detail on what a Labor bill might look like.

OIP Staff

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