Scott Morrison strikes a deal on the Religious Discrimination bill

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reportedly struck a deal with some of the Liberal moderates to get them onside and supporting the Religious Discrimination bill.

The Guardian Australia has reported that the PM has promised changes to the Sex Discrimination act would be separately fast-tracked through the parliament to alleviate the concerns expressed by some members over how the bill fails to tackle existing laws that allow students to be expelled from religious schools over their sexuality.

Previously the Attorney-General Michaelia Cash had asked the Law Reform Commission to look into the Sex Discrimination act 12 months after the passage of the Religious Discrimination bill, meaning changes would not have been considered until at least 2023. The PM previously promised to fix the problem with a fortnight – way back in 2018.

The deal will fast -track changes that will protect students, but teachers will still have to wait for the outcome of the Law Reform review.

The new deal was negotiated by Queensland MP Angie Bell with the Attorney-General and is said to have gotten her onside with the PM, as well as other members including Dave Sharma, Katie Allen and Fiona Martin.

The support however still may not be enough to guarantee the passage of the bill with Liberal members Trent Zimmerman and Bridget Archer having also voiced concerns and Warren Entsch vowing to cross the floor if the vote was brought on before the report from a parliamentary committee is delivered.

Angie Bell told The Guardian that the changes to the Sex Discrimination act were needed.

“No child should be rejected or be made to feel ashamed on these grounds by an educational institution. In Australia, every child has the right to access quality education so they can prepare for the real world,” Bell said on Wednesday.

“As the necessary amendments have been made to strengthen the rights of children in religious schools, I support the Prime Minister and the Attorney General with passage of the religious discrimination bill and will vote in its favour.” Bell said.

Equality Australia has urged the government to not vote on the legislation before it receives the report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The report from the inquiry is due in early February.

“If the government is serious about fulfilling its election commitment, it would end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools by delivering simple legislation to stop schools from firing, expelling or discriminating against them for who they are.

“What a cynical move to make ending discrimination against gay students conditional on support for a bad Bill that will wind back hard-fought protections for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, women and people of faith.

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, what we believe or whom we love. If MPs care about preserving protections for marginalised communities, they must oppose this Religious Discrimination Bill or at least send it to an inquiry to consider before debating it.” Equality Australia said.

OIP Staff

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