Keneally says religious schools should be able to choose all their staff

Labor’s Senator Kristina Keneally says religious based schools should be able to make choices about all their staff members, arguing that all employees of a religious school play a part in creating the community of those institutions.

Senator Keneally outlined her view while speaking in an online seminar with conservative group Family Voice Australia.

“It’s a community of faith and values, whether it’s the sports coach that leads prayers before you go out on to the basketball court, whether it’s the home room teacher, or the class room teacher who has to take children to liturgy. Whether it’s staying after school to supervise sacramental preparation, all of those aspects, even the values you live out and profess while you are interacting with people, all of those things are inherent in the job.” Senator Keneally said.

Currently Tasmania’s laws do not allow discrimination in religious schools on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, and the Andrews Labor government passed similar laws in Victoria just a few days ago. Both states however could potentially lose those protections if the federal government’s Religious Discrimination bill is passed.

Last week as debate on the bill commenced in the House of representatives Labor’s Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus outlined that the opposition was supportive of the federal anti-0discrimination framework being extended to include religious belief, but the party would not accept the loss of existing protections for other attributes such as sexuality, gender, disability or martial status.

Senator Keneally said the parliamentary inquires which would look into proposed Religious Discrimination bills needed to look into what is inherent to the mission and values of a religious institution, and how those institutions are able to preference people in employment, as long as they have a publicly available policy.

The senator said at this stage it was not clear how the legislation would play out, and there was a lot for the two inquiries to investigate.

Labor delivers it’s pitch to Christian voters

The seminar was titled “Does Christianity Have a Future Under Labor?” and Labor’s Deputy Leader in the Senate delivered her pitch to faith based voters saying Labor had learned it’s lesson from the 2019 election, and promised Anthony Albanese was a leader who came from a Catholic upbringing and was listening to what concerned people of faith.

Senator Keneally highlighted her own history as a Catholic school teachers and her university education in religious studies. The former NSW Premier said she hoped the issue of religion would not be treated as a “political football” in the upcoming federal election and used an issue that creates division in the community.

While Labor has given it’s in-principle support for Religious Discrimination laws Senator Keneally said the party’s final position would be guided by the International Covenant on Human Rights, and the international standards on freedom religion and belief. Senator Keneally also echoed the Shadow Attorney-General’s statement that new legislation should not remove existing protections for other members of the community.

Senator Keneally said Labor would be approaching the next election differently, but she did not believe religious freedom standpoints was a vote-changing issue at the last poll.

“We did have a comprehensive election review and it made a number of findings, and I think overwhelmingly it found that the loss came down to an ambitious number of policies – some of which were easily weaponised against us, and that we did not defend or explain them well enough – it also made some observations about the quality of the campaign.”

“The review did make some observations about a loss of votes, particularly among Christian communities, I’m not so sure the specific issue of religious freedom played a role in that as much as amore general impression that somehow that Labor was not as welcoming to people of faith as our opponents.” Senator Keneally said.

Senator Keneally says Labor should have allowed a conscience vote on marriage equality

Senator Keneally said she was disappointed that the party did not allow members to have a conscience vote on the issue of same sex marriage.

“I openly disagreed with the Labor party on this at the time, I was disappointed that Labor removed on conscience voter on same-sex marriage, and I publicly said so at the time, as did our leader Anthony Albanese.

“I felt that it sent a message that Labor no longer respected the views of people in the community.” Senator Keneally commented, saying it was frustrating that the party had ended up sending a message that they did not receptive or a welcoming place for people who held different views.

Graeme Watson 


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