Student anti-discrimination bill could pass Senate this week, Greens say


senator Janet Rice

Greens senator Janet Rice has said that Labor’s anti-discrimination bill to protect LGBTIQ students could pass the Senate when parliament resumes this week.

Rice told a rally organised by Equality Australia in Melbourne on Saturday she believes support from the crossbench could allow Labor’s bill, introduced by Senator Penny Wong, to pass its first hurdle.

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The bill would prevent religious schools discriminating against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status and is set to face a parliamentary vote in Canberra this week, The Age reported.

“[The bill] looks like it’s potentially got the support of the Senate, [through] the support of the crossbench, that can get it through the parliament [and] end discrimination against students,” Senator Rice told the rally at the State Library on Saturday.

The legislation would also have to pass a vote in the lower house, which has just seven sitting days scheduled between now and April 2.

Senator Rice said the reforms should go further and amendments to protect teachers and staff from being sacked for their sexuality should be supported.

“Every student, every teacher, every staff member at a school, deserves and has the right to feel safe and secure, to be affirmed, nurtured and respected,” Rice said.

“We need to end all discrimination in schools, no ifs or buts… and we can do that this week.”

Senator Rice was a member of a parliamentary committee examining the Labor bill and she said over the two days of hearings, she had felt “sick to my stomach” to hear some of the “outrageous slurs” on trans students.

“At times over the two days [of hearings] it feels like I have been poking my eyes with a sharp stick, I can tell you, I’ve had to shake myself down afterwards,” she told the crowd.

“The abhorrent homophobia and transphobia from some of the people who gave evidence to our [Senate inquiry] has been extraordinary and astounding.”

The Labor bill was introduced after it emerged from the Ruddock religious freedom review last year that current laws allow religious schools to expel students on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

Both political parties pledged to amend the laws, but reached a deadlock late last year over the details of the legislation.

The government referred its own controversial legislation addressing the issue to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in a bid to “produce specific drafting that may be capable of bipartisan support,” Attorney-General Christian Porter said in December.