Three more NSW Liberals have stated their belief that religious exemptions in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act go too far, a week after opposition Attorney General Greg Smith said he was troubled by aspects of the law.
Upper House Opposition Whip Don Harwin, the Liberal candidate for Sydney, Adrian Bartels, and the Liberal candidate for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, all told the Star Observer they believed the Act needed to be reformed.
Bartels said he agreed with Smith’s comments.
“I would endorse the personal view of the Shadow Attorney General that the exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act for religious organisations in the modern age deserve to be reviewed,” Bartels said.
“I personally feel any exemption from the Act should have to be demonstrated rather than assumed.”
Notley-Smith said he looked forward to when such exemptions were no longer needed.
“I can see a day when exemptions won’t need to exist because there will be enough understanding in society that they don’t need to,” Notley-Smith said.
“Change has been incremental, but we’ve come a long way since 1984 when homosexual acts were decriminalised.
“Australia is a much richer, diverse and accepting place than we ever could have imagined in 1984. So let’s keep working towards the least number of exemptions and restrictions as possible.
Harwin said he’d like to see more debate about the scope of exemptions while conceding they had been a necessary bargaining tool in the past to get reforms through Parliament.
But he thought NSW parliamentarians’ decision to adopt a more defined exemption for religious adoption agencies over a broader one proposed by Labor MP Frank Sartor during debate on same-sex adoption in 2010 was a good sign.
“I think there is a willingness for people to look at the scope of exemptions, and debate on that needs to be encouraged in the next months and years,” Harwin said.