Federal Labor has said there are “no plans” to change laws allowing religious schools to fire LGBTI people because of their sexuality.
Religious schools are exempt from the federal Sex Discrimination Act in relation to employment and the provision of education in accordance with their beliefs.
Similar exemptions exist in state discrimination laws in states such as Western Australia.
In November, the principal of a Perth Baptist school defended the school’s decision to let a relief teacher go after he revealed his sexuality in a Facebook post.
Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said on Sunday that Labor had “no plans to change anti-discrimination law at schools at the moment, we think the balance is about right.”
“What I would say is that most Catholic schools are very thoughtful about keeping the very best staff,” Plibersek said.
“I don’t expect to see a spate of people sacked because of their sexuality.”
The Guardian reported that Plibersek was responding to a pre-budget submission released by the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), in which the NCEC said it was important that religious freedom was reflected in schools’ teaching, employment and enrollment practices.
Former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock will chair the review into religious freedom in Australia that was ordered by the Turnbull government during the same-sex marriage debate.
The religious freedom review will meet for the first time on Wednesday, according to the Guardian, and the review panel is accepting submissions until January 31.
LGBTI rights advocates in Western Australia including Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Rainbow Rights WA have all pushed for Western Australia’s anti-discrimination laws to be reviewed after the Perth relief teacher’s sacking.
In November, peak body Christian Schools Australia supported the exemption allowing the school to remove the teacher.
“It’s not something we want to do — it’s something we just need to do to be able to provide the sort of education we want to provide,” the organisation’s CEO Mark Evans told The West Australian.
“Kids are great at picking up hypocrisy. They’ll know if a teacher is saying one thing and not living up to what they’re saying, and we want to avoid that kind of incongruity.”
In November, Western Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan referred the issue to the state’s Attorney General John Quigley, who said there would be no action taken until after the federal government’s religious freedom review is completed.
The religious freedom review is due to hand down its findings by March 31.