The Equality Tasmania group has urged Labor leader Anthony Albanese to rule out supporting the Coalition’s proposed override of state discrimination legislation, after ALP frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said Labor would find it “difficult to support”.
Plibersek, the Member for Sydney and Shadow Minister for Education, said that while Labor MPs were “absolutely supporters of religious freedoms”, the inclusion of a clause that overrides Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act was problematic.
“I think that would be a real problem with this legislation,” Plibersek told ABC’s Insiders program.
“It’s something that [Attorney-General] Christian Porter promised that he wouldn’t do – interfere with state laws … That is something that I think we would find very difficult to support, but we have to go through our proper processes on this.”
Equality Tasmania spokepserson Rodney Croome said: “We welcome Ms Plibersek’s opposition to a federal override of Tasmania’s strong discrimination and hate speech laws, and call on Anthony Albanese to rule out Labor support for such an override.
“Tasmania’s strong protections have fostered a fairer and more inclusive society for all Tasmanians, especially people with disability, Aboriginal people, ethnic and religious minorities, women and LGBTI people.”
Croome added: ”Given our gold-standard Anti-Discrimination Act is a proud Labor achievement, I would expect Labor to strongly defend it from any Federal intervention.”
Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act is the only Australian discrimination statute that prohibits discrimination by faith-based organisations on the basis of sex, gender and relationship status.
It is also the only state discrimination law that prohibits hateful, humiliating and intimidatory speech with no religious exemptions.
The main justification for a federal override of the Tasmanian Act appears to be a case against Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, for a booklet in which he suggested same-sex couples “mess with kids”.
Coalition conservatives such as Senator for Tasmania Eric Abetz have cited the case against Porteous as evidence of the need to override state discrimination laws.
The case was later dropped and the booklet continues to be distributed.
Croome said the case had been grossly distorted and exaggerated by elements of the media.
“All that happened to the Archbishop was that he was asked to attend a voluntary conciliation session, which is hardly a good reason for depriving Tasmanians of our fundamental legal rights.”
Croome’s comments come as the debate about the Federal Government’s draft Religious Discrimination Bill intensifies.
On Saturday, several hundred people attended a rally in the centre of Melbourne to oppose the bill.
The ‘No Right to Discriminate’ rally, organised by marriage equality campaigner Ali Hogg and Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward, involved speeches outside the State Library of Victoria, followed by a march through city streets.