Religious freedom bill ‘threatens human rights’ in NT

darwin pride festival party passport religious discrimination bill healthcare indigenous aboriginal first nations religious freedom nt northern territory
Photo: Darwin Pride Festival/Party Passport

The Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council and Rainbow Territory have joined several other community organisations to reject the Morrison Government’s religious discrimination bill.

In a joint statement, the groups warn the bill “threatens Territorians’ human rights and access to non-discriminatory employment, health and social services.”

“It could impinge upon the rights of many within our community to be protected from discrimination,” they write.

“To live free from discrimination, including living free from discrimination based on a person’s religion, is a human right.

“The bill would take us further away from this goal, rather than closer to it.”

As a result, the groups say they “wholly reject” the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 and call for it to be abandoned.

New barrier to Northern Territory healthcare

The groups warn that the bill’s provisions could disproportionately impact Northern Territory communities’ health service access.

“Remote communities in the NT often only have one or two health and service providers,” they write.

“The Bill could limit access to services for sexual health, family planning, fertility, mental health and same-sex attracted and trans and gender diverse support.

“A woman could be denied access to the contraceptive pill due to the religious beliefs of her health worker.

“Aboriginal Territorians may be significantly impacted, as most members of remote communities in the NT are Aboriginal peoples.

“The NT [has] limited health services and long distances between providers. This bill could add another barrier to healthcare.

The advocates say many faith-based service providers in the Northern Territory receive government funding to deliver services.

However, the bill would permit those providers “to only hire workers of a particular faith, or fire a worker who did not adhere to a particular faith.”

“Religious bodies could discriminate on the basis of religious belief when making employment decisions,” they said.

“People of faith could express harmful views in a workplace as statements of belief.”

Other organisations to sign the joint statement include Northern Territory Council of Social Service, Darwin Community Legal Service, the United Workers Union, SWOP NT and others.

Rallies around Australia this weekend against religious discrimination bill

Attorney-General Christian Porter released a revamped second draft of the religious discrimination bill on December 10.

However the new draft was panned by LGBTIQ advocates as even worse than the original.

Public submissions responding to the bill closed last Friday. Last weekend, hundreds rallied and marched in Brisbane to oppose the bill.

In Sydney, the Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) is holding a rally at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday (February 8).

The group condemn the bill as “a broad attack on anyone who has won protection from discrimination in recent decades.”

Melbourne protesters will also rally at the State Library of Victoria on Sunday (February 9).

Rainbow Rebellion organiser Roz Ward told the second draft of the bill is “even worse than the first.”

“These bills allow discriminatory acts and statements targeting not just LGBTI+ people, but anyone from a minority community,” Ward said.

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