Federal Labor policy will purge LGBTQ+ teachers


federal labor policy
Image: Anthony Albanese Facebook

Federal Labor policy going into the May federal election will allow the purging of LGBTQ+ teachers from faith schools.

Brian Greig is a spokesperson for Just-Equal Australia and former Federal senator.

In the recent debate on the Religious Discrimination Bill, Labor voted with the Coalition to oppose protections for teachers.

In a subsequent statement from Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, the Prime Ministerial aspirant said:

“A future Labor government will protect teachers from discrimination at work, whilst maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff.”

But the keywords here are ‘at work’.

What about those teachers and staff not employed in faith schools but who wish to apply?

This policy does not cover them. Labor will allow publicly-funded church schools to refuse to hire LGBTQ+ people.

‘Faith values’

They will do this under the euphemism of ‘faith values’, alluded to previously by Senator Keneally on ABC Insiders.

“Labor supports the right of religious schools, faith-based schools to be able to hire staff, whether it is teachers or other staff, that support the mission and the values of the school.”

It’s a policy that gives the religious right exactly what they want – the legal procedure to purge all LGBTQ+ teachers and staff from their schools over the next 20 years.

They won’t be able to sack existing LGBTQ+ teachers, but as they move on or retire they will not be replaced.

So, it’s a policy of attrition, allowing religious schools to drain all LGBTQ+ teachers from their payroll.

This approach is inconsistent with the approach Labor brings to LGBTQ+ students. It has made clear that under an Albanese Government, faith schools cannot expel LGBTQ+ students or discriminate against them at the point of enrolment.

But when it comes to teachers, Labor will protect LGBTQ+ teachers from being sacked, but it won’t protect them at the point of recruitment.

Why the difference?

Federal Labor policy —sitting on the fence

It seems Labor is trying to sit on the fence. It wants to appear LGBTQ+ friendly when it comes to students, but it wants to appear friendly to religious conservatives when it comes to teachers.

This makes no sense. It’s bad policy. It also sends a terrible message to students and panders to homophobic bigotry dressed up as ‘faith values’.

It’s also out of step with community attitudes.

YouGov Galaxy polling in 2018 found that 82% of voters oppose religious schools expelling LGBTI students. Some 78% said schools should not be entitled to taxpayer funding if they
discriminate against LGBT teachers and students.

Recent polling by YouGov in January this year, found 62% opposition to not hiring and sacking LGBT teachers. Opposition was higher among Labor voters at 73%.

Why does this Federal Labor policy matter?

Some in our community ask – why does it matter?

“Why would any LGBTQ+ person want to work at a school that doesn’t like them?”

The answers are simple.

First: religious schools are publicly funded and have a mandate to offer their services to the whole community. Commonwealth funding should require anti-discrimination protections for employees.

Second: many LGBTQ+ people are people of faith.

Third: in rural and regional areas of Australia faith schools are often the only option for some teachers.

Fourth: it is in the best interests of students for schools to hire teachers based on skills and competence, not sexuality or gender identity. Not to do this is a failure of governance.

Fifth: excluding LGBTQ+ teachers sends a terrible message to students. It reinforces the notion that LGBTQ+ people are wrong and bad, and that discrimination against them is valid.

Sixth: we know that protecting LGBTQ+ teachers works, having been successfully implemented in Tasmania for decades and the ACT since 2019 without any problems.

And lastly: this religious exclusion is inconsistent. In theory, it targets a multitude of ‘sinners’ including adulterers, divorced people, and also people in de facto relationships. But the main target is queers. This isn’t about upholding faith, it’s about upholding homo/transphobic prejudice.

There is time to turn the ALP around on this policy. Most backbenchers are unaware of it.

While Shadow Ministers are ducking for cover and refusing to answer direct questions, an increasing groundswell of party supporters are demanding explanation and change.

You should too.

Now, tell the politicians what you want

What do you think Federal Labor policy and Federal Liberal policy should include this election: Fill in the pre-election community survey. 

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