Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised religious groups he will pass his contentious Religious Discrimination Bill if re-elected this month.
The Coalition shelved the proposed legislation after moderate Liberals and Labor successfully added amendments to protect students at faith schools from expulsion over their sexuality or gender identity.
As religious groups lobby for the original proposal, Scott Morrison has written to them promising to revive the original, unamended bill after the May 21 federal election.
“If re-elected, we will pursue passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill as standalone legislation in the next Parliament,” Morrison wrote to FamilyVoice Australia.
“[We] will not accept any attempts to make changes to other laws that undermine protections for religious institutions.
“I want to assure you that guaranteeing Australians are safe from discrimination on the basis of their faith remains a priority for me and my Government.
“I will also not allow this issue to be used by Labor and the Greens to undermine existing protections.”
But LGBTIQ group Just.Equal Australia slammed Morrison for his pledge, saying the legislation would permit discrimination against others.
“Mr Morrison says the Bill will prevent discrimination on the ground of religion. But it actually allows discrimination in the name of religion,” spokesperson Brian Grieg said.
“The groups most adversely affected will be people with disability, religious minorities, women seeking health care and LGBTIQ+ people.
“This Bill is straight out of the American culture wars. [It] meets no real need, according to a review led by former Howard Minister, Philip Ruddock.”
Labor has also pledged to legislate against religious discrimination
Meanwhile, federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has also promised to pass religious discrimination protections if elected.
Labor has also vowed to protect queer students by scrapping the existing religious exemptions. But it’s unclear how soon the party would move to enact this pledge.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged to “protect teachers from discrimination at work, whilst maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff.”
Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Brian Grieg said Labor has key questions to answer about their religious discrimination policy.
“Labor’s failure to tell the LGBTQ+ community what an Albanese Government would allow and disallow in a Religious Discrimination Bill is deeply concerning,” he said.
“Labor has made it clear it would protect LGBTQ+ students. However, its position on teachers and other workers is unclear.
“We asked [Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus] if a Labor Government would allow faith schools to refuse to hire LGBTQ+ teachers and staff by deeming them to be at odds with the school’s ‘faith values’.
“But he has not answered.”
In January, two former faith school teachers told a federal inquiry they were sacked because of their homosexuality.
They claimed many other Australian teachers were also fearful of their own religious schools’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” cultures.
Greens blast Labor for abandoning LGBTIQ community
On Sunday, the Greens unveiled their LGBTIQ+ equality plan. Spokesperson Senator Janet Rice also slammed the Coalition and Labor for “abandoning” the queer community.
In their policy, the Greens want a federal Equality Minister and an LGBTIQ+ Human Rights Commissioner appointed.
The party will also introduce a Charter of Rights to strengthen federal anti-discrimination law.
“LGBTIQA+ rights are non-negotiable,” Senator Rice said.
“Governments are supposed to serve all people. Instead, the Morrison government has been using queer people as a political football for years.
“And Labor has done a complete disappearing act on LGBTIQA+ rights.
“Since the 2019 federal election, Labor has abandoned their values and LGBTIQA+ people. Labor axed their LGBTIQA+ portfolio.
“[They] betrayed queer and other marginalised communities by voting with the Morrison government on the Religious Discrimination Bill.”
Rice said the Greens are “the only party that voters can be assured will always fight, inside and outside parliament, for equality and human rights for everyone.”
“In balance of power, the Greens will push Labor to act on the important progressive issues,” Rice said.
“[We will] drive meaningful action on funding holistic and comprehensive health services, secure housing and safe, positive spaces in schools and other institutions for LGBTIQA+ people.”
Just.Equal Australia welcomed the Greens’ policy, and said it puts pressure on both major parties to release their own.
The group also want to see the Greens commit to LGBTIQ+ mental health, the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people in the Census, and the removal of the gay, bi and trans blood donation ban.
The federal election is on May 21.
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