Fury as Morrison Government delays gay law review

attorney general christian porter religious discrimination bill religious freedom
Photo: ABC

LGBTIQ advocates have slammed the Morrison government for again delaying law changes to protect LGBT students and staff at faith schools.

Last week, it emerged federal Attorney-General Christian Porter quietly delayed the reporting date of a legal inquiry into faith schools’ ability to expel LGBTIQ students or refuse enrolment from same-sex families.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged in 2018 to scrap the schools’ legal exemptions. His promise followed public outrage when the Ruddock religious freedom review revealed schools could do so.

After a deadlock in the parliament, the Morrison Government sent the issue to the Australian Law Reform Commission for review in April 2019.

But that review now has a new indefinite deadline of “12 months from the date the Religious Discrimination Bill is passed by Parliament”.

Porter told the Sydney Morning Herald the delay “makes good sense as it will enable the commission to take into account the extraordinarily far-reaching public consultation process we undertook in developing the Religious Discrimination Bill”.

The ALRC’s general counsel Matt Corrigan told the Herald the commission had not started the inquiry and asked for an extension. Corrigan said it was impossible to conduct the inquiry while the Religious Discrimination Bill was before Parliament.

“We will not be starting on this inquiry until either a bill is passed or a final decision is made by [the] government,” he said.

“The two are inexorably linked and it’s not possible to look at them separately.”

States should act after Morrison government delay

However Rodney Croome, who heads LGBTIQ group just.equal, said the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill has an uncertain future.

“The ALRC inquiry was established to review the issue of LGBTIQ students in religious schools,” he said.

“Scott Morrison promised to end discrimination against them before Christmas 2018.

“Now the government says it won’t release the ALRC report until a year after the religious discrimination bill becomes law.

“That bill hasn’t even been tabled yet. There is no guarantee it will even pass through parliament, so what happens then?”

Tasmania, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory outlaw such discrimination already.

However, other states and the Commonwealth don’t provide that protection.

Croome said the new timeframes would delay federal action until after the next election.

He accused the Morrison goverment of being “more interested” in allowing discrimination than protecting children from it.

“The states must step up,” he said.

“Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia no longer have excuses for ignoring this issue or failing to act.

“Other states have outlawed this discrimination against students. There is no point in deferring to the Federal Government for leadership.”

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