The Tasmanian state government is facing renewed pressure to oppose the federal government’s controversial draft Religious Discrimination Bill after the state’s Legislative Council voted to reject it.

Members of the Upper House voted nine to five in favour of a motion from independent member for Nelson, Meg Webb, whose ten-pointed motion demanded support for marginalised communities and an upholding of Tasmanian anti-discrimination legislation.

Point eight of Webb’s ten-point motion was even amended by the Legislative Council to change the word “condemns” to “rejects” the federal government’s “attempt to weaken protections for Tasmanian women, LGBTIQ people, Aboriginal people, ethnic and religious minorities and people with disabilities”.

Speaking to The Advocate, Webb said she was pleased that the Legislative Council had taken action against the “direct threat” the bill poses.

“The proposed federal bill poses a direct threat – it risks making our state law unworkable and will leave a range of vulnerable Tasmanians less protected,” she said.

Webb also noted that she wanted the Tasmania’s government to “take action” and “strongly defend Tasmania’s state sovereignty and right to best protect its citizens”.

“Instead of targeting Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws, the federal government would do well to emulate them.” 

Section 17 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1999 prohibits “any conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules a person based on certain attributes including age, race, gender, disability, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibilities, gender identity and sexual orientation”.

Webb’s is not the first motion to be passed in Tasmania condemning the federal government’s attempts to weaken existing legislation through “federal override”.

Earlier in September, the Tasmanian Greens Party passed a motion condemning the federal government’s controversial draft Religious Discrimination Bill, in the hopes of protecting the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act.Equality Tasmania

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome lauded the Greens for standing against unmoderated discrimination and called for other major Tasmanian political parties to follow suit. 

“I congratulate the Greens on being the first, and thus far the only, political party to condemn the federal bill and stand up for our landmark state legislation,” he said, in a media statement.

Following the Legislative Council’s support of Webb’s motion, Equality Tasmania spokesperson Charlie Burton said the vote shows clear opposition against insidious federal intervention. 

‘The Legislative Council’s vote shows there is strong support for our state’s existing laws and increases the pressure on the State Government to oppose the federal override,” she said. 

“It also sends a message to Canberra that it should not meddle with Tasmania’s human rights protections.” 

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