Stoker signals no changes to Sex Discrimination Act in future agenda

Senator Amanda Stoker has laid out her thoughts on how the government will approach the proposed Religious Discrimination Act if reelected next week, saying it was hugely disappointing members of her own party voted against the legislation earlier this year.

“It was hugely disappointing.” Senator Stoker said during an online interview with the Australian Christian Lobby. “In that bill we had an opportunity to recognise in law, for the very first time, the important notion that religious freedom we have a recognition of how fundamental it is to the idea of the free human being, that a person be able to speak freely, be able to associate freely, be able to choose what they believe, because faith brings all of those things together.

“If you can’t think for yourself, well you can’t come to God really.” Senator Stoker said, arguing that without the legislation people’s ability to fully express their faith is curtailed.

Senator Stoker said the bill had failed because a “frustrating handful” of her colleagues in the House of Representatives had backed changes to the Sex Discrimination Act. The successful amendments would have stopped faith based schools from expelling students on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

“They said they were prepared to pass the Religious Discrimination bill, but only if they took away some really important protections for schools in the Sex Discrimination Act.

“To take all of those away would have undercut the ability of religious schools to achieve their mission, so much – that it was worth going back to the drawing board on the whole thing.” Senator Stoker said, explaining the government’s decision to pull the entire bill.

Senator Stoker said now there was an opportunity for the Australian Christian Lobby and the government to embark on a journey together to educate Australians about the importance of the fundamental freedoms underlining the bill, noting that the amendments  were only passed by a handful of votes.

“We only just felt short, so I’m optimistic that as part of our future agenda we might be able to get the success that we missed out on this time.” Senator Stoker said.

Australian Christian Lobby campaigns against Liberal MPs who voted to change Sex Discrimination Act.

The Australian Christian Lobby has launched a campaign encouraging people not to vote for the Coalition members who voted for the amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act.

The campaign has included mobile billboard and flyers depicting Senator Stoker’s colleagues Bridget Archer and Fiona Martin as attacking churches with wrecking balls. In an previous video post ACL Managing Director Martyn Iles said his organisation wanted to discourage Liberal MPs from voting against the party’s position.


Senator Stoker says Sex Discrimination laws must remain unchanged

Senator Stoker said there no need for changes to Sex Discrimination Act because there was no evidence that faith-based schools were ever expelling students over their sexuality of gender identity.

“They were overwhelmingly treated pastorally and caringly as part of a community that wanted to see them be their best.” Senator Stoker said.

The Queensland based senator said it was important the provisions with the Sex Discrimination Act remained.

“If you take away that provision, you don’t only take away the ability of a school to expel a gay kid, as if that’s something they would want to do anyway, you also take away their ability to engage in disciplinary process and management of behaviour for people who have any of those types of attributes.

Senator Stoker said without the provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act schools would end up having a two-tier behaviour management system, with some students given exemptions from the usual code of conduct.

“To have a two-tier behaviour management system, you know exemptions from the usual code of conduct for students, for people who can find one of these identity politics attributes on which to ‘hook it on’, is problematic for school cohesion.”

Back in 2018 Senator Stoker said Religious Discrimination legislation was needed to stop activist students from forming queer clubs in schools. The Liberal MP has also shared her view that people make a choice to be same-sex attracted or transgender.

Mixed messages from Liberal MPs on how the issue will be addressed

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently outlined that he’d like to see the Religious Discrimination Bill passed in the next term of parliament, and concerns about elements of the Sex Discrimination Act to be addressed separately.

At a voter’s forum held earlier this week at the Victorian Pride Centre, Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg said he believed the Sex Discrimination concerns should be dealt with first.

Bragg said he didn’t believe teachers or students should face discrimination, and he believed that there was more than enough evidence that this was occurring.

“There is clear evidence far too many gay teachers have been sacked, including people I know.” Senator Bragg said.

The Liberal party representative said that there would be an Australian Law Reform Commission report looking into the issue, and he believes it it is vital that the parliament considers its findings before moving forward with any religious discrimination legislation.

“The principle is you shouldn’t be sacked if you’re gay, I mean you wouldn’t be sacked if you were black, to be frank. I think that’s a very important principle and we want to achieve that in the next parliament.”

Speaking to a queer audience Senator Bragg said the government was still committed to removing the sections of the Sex Discrimination Act, speaking to Christian voters Senator Stoker said they they need to remain.

Graeme Watson 

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