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NSW Govt supports religious discrimination
The NSW Government has announced it opposes any changes to legislation that would prevent religious bodies discriminating against LGBTI people in hiring practices. In its submission to the Senate Committees Inquiry on the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, the government defended the right of religious groups to “discriminate in their employment practices in relation to religious values”.
“Appropriate exemptions for religious bodies, including in relation to the scope of the ‘inherent requirements’ of a job, are necessary,” the government submission states.
The Bill, which aims to consolidate Australia’s five existing pieces of federal discrimination legislation into one Act, includes exceptions that allow religious groups and any businesses or services they run to refuse to hire LGBTI people on the grounds of “avoid[ing] injury to religious sensitivities”. Such exceptions would mirror current provisions in NSW’s existing anti-discrimination legislation and would extend to private religious schools, mental health service providers and charities run by religious organisations.
The proposed exemptions have been criticised by numerous groups, including AIDS awareness organisation ACON and the Uniting Church of Australia.
In its submission to the inquiry ACON expressed its disappointment that the federal government would continue to exempt religious organisations from anti-discrimination employment practices.
“Many instances of discrimination against GLBT people occur in institutions controlled by religious organisations that operate in the secular public sphere. With the receipt of government funding, these organisations should be subject to the obligation not to discriminate. The existence of exceptions sends a message to the public that it is okay to discriminate against GLBT people,” ACON said in a statement.
The Bill has also faced criticism for continuing to exempt Australian migration policy from disability discrimination laws.
Current federal legislation, which is being rolled over into the new Bill, allows visa applications to be refused if the applicant has a disability, which includes HIV under the Disability Discrimination Act.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) argued in its submission that failure to include migration legislation under the Bill would constitute discrimination against HIV-positive people looking to become Australian citizens.
“If not for the exemption of migration law… the policy to test all permanent visa applicants for HIV and to generally refuse visas to people with HIV under the Health Requirement would be unlawful discrimination,” AFAO’s submission states.
The Senate Committee is due to report on its findings on February 18.