Labor To Introduce New Religious Discrimination Bill In Parliament: Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

Labor To Introduce New Religious Discrimination Bill In Parliament: Attorney General Mark Dreyfus
Image: Attorney General Mark Dreyfus. Image: Facebook

Attorney general Mark Dreyfus on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese-led Labor government would bring in a new religious discrimination bill before the Parliament. 

“It’s something that we will do… we are bringing the religious discrimination legislation before the parliament,” the Attorney General told Patricia Karvelas on RN Breakfast, in response to a question about whether Labor will legislate a religious discrimination law that also protects gay and trans students. 

Attorney general said that the government had not yet set a timeline for the new law, but added that it would be done during this term of the Parliament. The attorney general added that at the core of the law was “bringing in a prohibition on discriminating against people on the grounds of their religious beliefs”. 

Government Urged Not To Repeat Scott Morrison’s Mistakes

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Senator Penny Wong at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in March 2022. Image: Supplied

LGBTQI advocates have cautioned the Labor government against repeating the mistakes of the Scott Morrison government, which tried to unsuccessfully pass an anti-LGBTQI Religious discrimination bill earlier this year. 

The attorney general’s statement is not a new revelation. Dreyfus pointed out that that Labor had promised a religious discrimination bill that did not take away the rights of the LGBTQI community if it was elected. “We’ve made our position clear. It is a matter of again drafting (a new) legislation, which we will be doing and we will be bringing the legislation to the Parliament,” said Dreyfus. 

In its policy document for the federal elections, Labor has said that it was looking at “strengthening of our anti-discrimination laws as an opportunity to unite the nation, rather than to divide it.”

The policy document gave very few details of what an Albanese government’s Religious discrimination bill would look like. It said that the new legislation would “prevent discrimination against people of faith, including anti-vilification protections; act to protect all students from discrimination on any grounds; and protect teachers from discrimination at work, whilst maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff.”

‘Our Laws Should Protect All’

LGBTQI advocacy group Equality Australia warned the government against following the path chosen by the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, no matter who we are, whom we love or what we believe,” Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, said in a statement. 

“Labor must avoid the mistakes of the previous government that instead introduced a Religious Discrimination Bill that would have wound back protections for women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability and people of faith, undermining inclusive workplaces and access to judgement-free healthcare.”

Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill was panned universally for discriminating against LGBTQI and other marginalised communities. The proposed bill had no protections for gay and trans students and also sought to override existing anti-discrimination protections in states like Tasmania and Victoria. 

Remove Religious Exemptions In 100 Days

“While Labor’s statements prior to the election are a welcome indication it is committed to ensuring protections for people of faith don’t result in discrimination against others, the government must ensure any reform raises the standard for everyone and doesn’t override existing protections,” said Brown.

Equality Australia has also called on the Labor government to reform discriminatory laws in its first 100 days, including removing exemptions under anti-discrimination laws  given to religious organisations. The organisation pointed out that in 2013, the then Labor government had removed religious exemptions from the aged-care sector. 

“Labor must first act swiftly to fill gaps in protection for LGBTQ+ students and teachers in religious schools and extend those same protections to all staff working in any faith-based organisations, and LGBTQ+ people accessing services from religious providers,” added Brown.

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