PM says Sex and Religious Discrimination will be adjusted simultaneously

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed it is his intention to bring in amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act and the proposed Religious Discrimination Act at the same time.

The statement is the latest in a public back-and-forth between the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister to the Attorney General, Amanda Stoker.

Yesterday the Prime Minister declared that the government would be making amendments to the Religious Discrimination legislation to allow for better protections for LGBTIQA+ students in faith-based schools. The PM had originally promised to take action on legislation that permitted discrimination towards students back in 2018.

Following the controversy this week around Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College’s attempts to introduce a contract that forced parents to declare a belief that homosexuality and bisexuality was a destructive force in people and society, Scott Morrison said he did not support the school’s move and would be committing to making changes to the laws currently before the parliament.

During a radio interview this morning with the ABC, Senator Stoker said that while the Prime Minister was keen to reduce the time frame between making amendments to the Religious Discrimination Act and fixing loopholes in the Sex Discrimination Act, one would have to come before the other, and the government would only be looking at the Sex Discrimination legislation after the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

Appearing before the media at an event in the seat of Chisholm this morning, Morrison was asked if he could confirm if changes to both acts would be tackled simultaneously. The Prime Minister said it was intention to deal with both at the same.

It’s not the first time there’s been signs of differing views between the Prime Minister and the Attorney General’s team.

In December there were reports that the Prime Minister had gained moderate Liberals support for the Religious Discrimination bill, by agreeing to tackle the Sex Discrimination Act at the same time.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash later told conservative group Family Voice Australia that there would be no changes to original plan, which would require the Australian Law Reform Commission to look into the Sex Discrimination Bill twelve months after the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

Prime Minister approaches Labor seeking support for the bill

Yesterday it was revealed by The Guardian that at the same time reports emerged that the Prime Minister had struck a deal with moderate Liberals, he’d also formally written to Labor asking them to support the Religious Discrimination Bill, with the promise that amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act would either be included in senate amendments, or through an expedited process following the passage of the bill.

Writing to Labor leader Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister pushed for the bills to be passed quickly.

“Prior to the commencement of the debate I seek your agreement to ensure that these bills can be considered and passed, without further amendment, or change to the intended procedure, in a bipartisan way by the House before the end of this week.” Morrison proposed.

Anthony Albanese wrote back to the Prime Minister, opting instead to wait for the release of reports from both the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and the senate’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee.

The reports from both committees are expected today.

Graeme Watson

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