Stoker walks back Morrison’s pledge to protect LGBTIQA+ students

Assistant Minister to the Attorney General, Senator Amanda Stoker, has proclaimed the government will only be looking at protections for LGBTIQA+ students after its Religious Discrimination Bill has been dealt with, and won’t compromise it’s promise to deliver on religious discrimination.

Her statements during an interview with Patricia Karvelas on ABC RN Breakfast have muddied the waters on what the Morrison government’s plan is to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide protections for LGBTIQA+ students.

During the interview Senator Stoker said suggestions that the government would be addressing the sections of the Sex Discrimination Act which allow for schools to expel students because of their sexuality or gender identity at the same time as they tackle the Religious Discrimination Bill were not accurate.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily reflecting the reality of what’s happening here,” Senator Stoker said.

The Queensland senator said the government had promised to bring in protections for gay students as far back as 2018, and was trying to create a problem that was created by the Labor party. Senator Stoker said it was important the Religious Discrimination Bill is fully passed before tackling the issue of discrimination against gay students.

Senator Stoker said the issue was one of “mechanics”, and there was no promise that the government would look at changes to the Sex Discrimination Act in the coming weeks.

“Certainly there a group of people in our community who are pushing for that, and I can understand there enthusiasm to have that done quickly. The reason I would suggest the original plan to make sure we legislation the Religious Discrimination plan first, and then change Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act, which is the provision which was inserted by Mark Dreyfus under Labor, to empower the kinds of behaviours we are trying to correct here, that provision shouldn’t be changed unless we know the final form of the Religious Discrimination Act.

“It’s important the two integrate well, because if you change one without knowing the final form of the Religious Discrimination Act that emerges from the senate, you could actually end up create problems rather than solutions.”

Senator Stoker said she was aware of the comments the Prime Minister had made yesterday, but the approach of addressing the two acts separately was still the government’s plan for moving forward.

“I understand that the Prime Minister looking for a way that those things can be done at the same time, and I understand that, and that’s why I say to you, that was our original plan, and we’re looking at the mechanics of how that be compressed.”

When host Patricia Karvelas highlighted that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had just announced that both issues would be addressed, Senator Stoker responded that a condensed timeline may be considered, but the two pieces of legislation would need to be addressed one at a time.

“We are looking at options for ways that we can make sure that the protections we sought for good policy that was originally to be delivered by doing the Section 38 changes after the enactment of a Religious Discrimination Act. We’re looking to see ways that we can try to compress that timeline, and we’re looking to options for dealing with that closer to the time that the Religious Discrimination Act is passed, but we don’t want to accidentally, or inadvertently, cause harm to any of the important stakeholders in this space by doing policy that is based on the issues of the day rather than the important work that is done in the long term.”

Senator Stoker said the she was aware the Prime Minister was “keen” to have a tighter timeline on dealing with the legislation, but would not guarantee it would be addressed before the federal election.

“That’s our expectation, but we are working through the different ways that it is possible to do that, and we’re not going to compromise on getting the policy right.” Senator Stoker said.

“We are trying to make it happen, and I expect we’ll make it happen, but I’m not going to sign it in blood for you.”

Senator Stoker said that while there were studies showing that discrimination was a key factor in poor mental health in transgender youth, she had also seen information suggesting the medical interventions provided to transgender youth may not be effective.

“I think that there’s a lot of studies that have shocking figures in relation to people who are transgender, I share the concerns for the wellbeing of people in that situation.

“There is also other information of that kind that says things like many of the medical procedures that we provide to try and help transgender people feel much more mentally healthy aren’t actually providing the improvements in health and wellbeing that are desirable.” Senator Stoker said.

Senator Stoker said she believed trans gender kids needed lots of support, but there were a wide range of schools that students parents could choose to send their children to, arguing that schools that were upfront about their beliefs would give parents more informed choices.

“There’s a whole range of options in our education system, so that the different needs of all those children can be met,” Senator Stoker said.

Graeme Watson

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