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Cook Government under fire for delaying law reforms

In August 2022 Attorney General John Quigley announced the Western Australian Government would be making long promised changes to WA’s Equal Opportunity laws to bring them into line with many other Australian states, but now that plan appears to have been put on the back-burner.

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On Sunday, a spokesperson for Attorney General John Quigley, told The Sunday Times that the government remained committed to implementing the laws but refused to give a time line for their implementation.

Multiple sources have told the newspaper that the law reform is on hold, suggesting that no action would be taken until after the next election because the government fears a battle with faith leaders over the issue, and their still reeling from the negative impact of the failed implementation of Indigenous cultural heritage laws.

OUTinPerth was given the identical line about the situation last month when we made inquiries about both the Equal Opportunity law reform and the promise to abolish the WA Gender Reassignment Board.

While the reform of the Equal Opportunity laws cover a wide range of outdated elements, one long standing issue is how the laws currently allows teachers and students in faith based schools to discriminated against because of their sexuality, or their family member’s sexuality.

WA Spokesperson for national lobby group, Just.Equal, Brian Greig, said the ongoing discrimination against LGBTIQA+ students and teachers in publicly funded faith schools was indefensible as most states had already banned it.

“It is inexplicable that Mr Quigley seems to think this reform is controversial or an election loser, when Tasmania abolished this discrimination 25 years ago, and has the support of Tasmania’s Liberal Government”, Greig said.

In Western Australia  it remains lawful for faith schools to refuse to employ a qualified teacher if they happen to LGBTIQA+ or in a same-sex relationship, and can sack them. It is also lawful to refuse to enrol any LGBTIQA+ students and to expel them.

Recent examples of discrimination include a seven year old girl being rejected from Mandurah Christian College in 2015 when the principal discovered she was being raised by two dads.

In 2017, History and English teacher, Craig Campbell, was dumped from South Coast Baptist College (where he had been a student), when his sexuality became known during the postal vote on same-sex marriage.

“When the young girl was discriminated against, it was condemned by Premier Colin Barnett and Opposition Leader Mark McGowan, both of whom who pledged to change the law but never did,” Greig said.

Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, the ACT and NT have all banned this discrimination.

In 2018, polling by YouGov-Galaxy found:

  • 82 percent of Australians opposed church schools having the right to expel LGBTI students.
  • 79 percent opposed LGBTI teachers being sacked if they marry same-sex partner.
  • 78 percent of Australians believe church schools should not be entitled to taxpayer funds if they discriminate against LGBTI teachers and students

“It is completely unacceptable that Labor keeps kicking this can down the road, when the public overwhelmingly support reform,” Brian Greig said, calling on Labor backbenchers to oppose any Cook Cabinet decision to dump the election promise.

The call for action follows a protest in Perth on Sunday, and the announcement that further protests will be staged outside Parliament House in the future.

Graeme Watson 


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