Federal Labor has announced it wants planned changes to Australian discrimination laws to go further to prevent religious schools from sacking teachers and staff on the basis of their sexuality, as well as students.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the federal government would move to scrap a rarely-used federal exemption allowing religious schools in most states to broadly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexuality.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said on Monday he was pleased that “both sides of politics are now united in the view that exemptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against children should be removed” but said the changes should go further.
“I believe we can use this goodwill to go further and remove the exemption that would allow a teacher or school staff member to be sacked or refused employment because of their sexual orientation,” he said.
“In my discussions with religious educators, it’s clear this is not an exemption they use or want to use.
“These laws are no longer appropriate, if indeed they ever were appropriate.
“It’s time our laws reflected the values we teach our children.”
Deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg told ABC Radio the legislation would be negotiated this week but his view was that there shouldn’t be any discrimination.
“I don’t think there’s any room for discrimination, be it [against] a student or against a teacher,” he said.
“That being said, we need to work through this process with the Labor party and ensure that we provide a bipartisan front to the country.”
The exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act was thrown into the spotlight last week after a leaked recommendation from the Ruddock religious freedom review recommended the religious schools’ right to discriminate against gay students be enshrined in law, prompting outrage.
Last year, a Perth relief teacher was sacked from his job at a Baptist college after he revealed his sexuality in a Facebook post.
Western Australian just.equal spokesperson Brian Greig said the LGBTIQ discrimination in faith-based schools was overwhelmingly occurring against teachers, not students.
Earlier this year, a YouGov Galaxy poll conducted for just.equal found 82% of respondents were opposed to the exemptions that allowed expulsion of gay and lesbian students.
Seventy-nine per cent opposed schools’ ability to fire teachers if they married a person of the same sex.