Senator Fierravanti-Wells says call to protect LGBTI students was a furphy

At the end of the first week of parliament for 2019 Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells delivered a speech welcoming the government’s decision to refer the legislation to protect LGBTI students from being expelled from schools to the Law Reform Commission.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells says the idea that students could be discriminated against in any way “is a furphy”, and the Law Reform Commission will tackle how religious freedom can be protected.

LGBTI rights advocates have slammed the government’s decision to send the legislation to review by the Law Reform Commission, a move that will see the issue pushed off the agenda until after the federal election.

The concern over students being expelled from religious based schools, and teachers and staff be fired from their positions if they are same-sex attracted, came out of the Ruddock Review into religious freedom.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to remove the exemptions from the anti-discrimination laws back in October but was not able to reach agreement with the opposition over the wording of the legislation. Legislation put forward by Labor was subsequently referred to a senate committee. Yesterday the committee delivered it’s report, but the government immediately referred the legislation to be reviewed by the Law Reform Commission.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said the issue first arose because elements of the Ruddock Review and people had taken the recommendations out of context.

“Those opposite have sought to cast this bill as one that is aimed at ensuring that gay students are not discriminated against and expelled from schools, and has built the bill on this furphy.

“Overwhelming evidence has been provided in both inquiries that religious schools are not expelling gay students.” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.

Describing the concern over LGBTI students being discriminated as a “non-issue” the Liberal senator said Labors bill was trying to solve a “non-existent problem” but would go too far and impinge on religious freedom.

“There was substantial evidence from across the broad religious spectrum opposing the bill on the basis of that it represented an unacceptable incursion on religious freedom, it would introduce uncertainty into the sex discrimination act, that in turn would lead to much broader unintended consequences which would cause unnecessary conflict and ambiguity in school communities.” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.

Fierravanti-Wells said the parliament should have taken the time to consider the issue of religious freedom prior to passing the same-sex marriage legislation and the government would now bring in stand alone religious freedom legislation and this would overtake the call for amendments to the sex discrimination act.

Senator Amanda Stoker also rose to speak on the decision, saying the Labor bill would limit human rights and ignored the government’s responsibility to meet international laws to respect human rights and religious freedom.

“The bill and the Greens amendment both fail to comply with these requirements as they simply extinguish the right to religious freedom.” Senator Stoker said.

Senator Stoker said she was of the view that LGBTI people’s rights should be looked at as part of the government’s holistic response to the Ruddock Review rather than via a separate piece of legislation.

“This matter should be addressed as part of the government’s holistic response to the Ruddock Review, so that the rights of LGBTI people are protected in a way that is fairly balances that rights with the competing rights of others, and fosters a society in which the human rights of all people are encouraged to co-exist.” Senator Stoker said.

OIP Staff


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