Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus this week announced an extension to the reporting deadline for the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC’s) Inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws.
The report, originally due yesterday 21 April 2023, now is expected on 31 December 2023.
The extension follows an ALRC request for extra time to consider over 420 submissions and 40,000 survey responses.
ALRC Commissioner Stephen Rothman said the issues before the inquiry were of great significance to a large number of Australians.
It is important that the Commission considers the many varied perspectives thoroughly and sensitively.
The Albanese government promised before the 2022 election to legislate protections for LGBTIQ+ staff and students. The form of that legislation will depend on the final report from the ALRC.
In truth, the issue is simple. Should institutions that receive substantial government funding enjoy the right to discriminate on who benefits from that funding because of personal prejudice?
Should queer taxpayers subsidise institutions that refuse them service?
Does that truly need a religious discrimination inquiry?
Just.Equal Australia said yesterday the extension of time should be used to inquire into all faith-based services, including hospitals and charities.
Spokesperson Sally Goldner said discrimination was as serious in hospitals, disability, welfare and employment services and charities as in schools.
“Those who seek help from faith-based services are often vulnerable and in great need, while staff in these services are under immense pressure to meet this need.
“It is completely unacceptable that these clients and staff members should face the possibility of discrimination because they are LGBTQ+ without any legal protection.”
Equality Australia described the extension as a disappointing delay to urgently needed protections for LGBTQ students and staff.
CEO Anna Brown said there have been many reviews and attempts at changing the law over the last decade.
“While the 2013 reforms protecting LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination were a huge step forward, they left significant gaps in protections for workers, students and service users in religious schools and organisations, which successive governments have failed to address.
“These gaps have directly impacted many people from our community, as demonstrated by the number of people who have already lost their jobs and students who have faced discrimination at school.”
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