Government pulls Religious Discrimination bill from debate

The government has pulled the Religious Discrimination bill from the Senate’s schedule, throwing doubt on the possibility of the legislation being revisited before the federal election.

Last night in an marathon sitting the House of Representatives passed the legislation with Labor, The Greens and the crossbench successfully including an amendment to the associated Sex Discrimination Act that would provide protections for transgender students alongside protections for students on the basis of sexuality.

The amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act and passage of the Religious Discrimination bill was successful because five Liberal members crossed the floor and offered their support.

This morning key supporter of the bill, the Australian Christian Lobby, withdrew their support for the legislation, and the government came under fire from conservative family groups and religious bodies.

The government faced a distinct possibility of losing votes on amendments to the bill as pressure fell on Liberal MP Andrew Bragg to cross the floor and show support for protections for transgender students. Senator Bragg has consistently voiced his support for protections for students on the basis of both sexuality and gender identity and he had reportedly told his colleagues he would side with Labor not only to bring protections for transgender students, but also to remove the controversial statement of belief clauses.

With only a few sitting days remaining for the Senate, and the needs for the budget to be passed in March, it seems unlikely that the bills will be considered before the Prime Minister is forced to call the election.

This morning government ministers filled morning television slots arguing that the amendment that aims to stop transgender students being expelled from faith-based schools would have unintended negative consequences.

Senator Amanda Stoker, Emergency Services Minister Bridget McKenzie and Home Affair Minister Karen Andrews all outlined concerns that allowing protections for transgender students would cause an uncertain future single sex schools suggesting that in the future school camps, sport and other extra curricular events would no longer be possible.

OIP Staff

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