A new poll has found an overwhelming majority of Australians oppose the right of private and religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI students and staff.
74 per cent of respondents to the Fairfax-Ipsos poll said they opposite the laws, with just 21 per cent saying they support them, despite the religious freedom review recommending they be kept in place.
15 per cent of Labor voters and seven per cent of Greens voters indicated that they support the exemption, with 81 per cent and 92 per cent against respectively.
In the wake of the results being published by Fairfax, Labor announced they would move to remove the anti-discrimination exemptions, which are already under the microscope at the state level in Western Australia and Victoria, and were long ago removed in Tasmania.
Advocates are speaking out to ensure that the removal of the amendment is broadly inclusive, citing a 2015 case in which one of the fathers of a seven-year-old girl was told that she would not have been admitted to the Christian college had the school known she had same-sex parents.
“It is in the best interests of students at faith-based schools that their teachers are employed on the basis of skill and nothing else,” said just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome.
During Question Time today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed general support to ending discrimination exemptions for LGBTI students but stopped short of extending that support to protecting teachers from discrimination.
Morrison said the “issue we need to address right now relates to children and ensuring we protect them against discrimination”.
In a statement, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was pleased that there appeared to be bipartisan support for some degree of amendment to the laws.
“I believe we can use this goodwill to go further and remove the exemption that would allow a teacher or school staff member to be sacked or refused employment because of their sexual orientation,” Shorten said.
“It’s time our laws reflected the values we teach our children.”
After some confusion, it was later clarified that Labor will be pushing for the removal of the ‘right to discriminate’ for trans and gender diverse students and teachers, though their position in this debate has not yet been addressed directly by Labor.
Correction on this one: I’m told that although Shorten’s tweet this morning re teachers only mentioned sexuality, Labor will be pushing to remove discrimination for teachers on sexuality AND gender identity.
— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) October 15, 2018
“Transgender and gender diverse students and teachers are particularly vulnerable to stigma and discrimination and deserve the same protections as everyone else,” said Croome.
“It would make a mockery of any protections for gay students and teachers if their transgender counterparts were not also protected.
“We urge Parliament to get this legislation right, and not to rush to meet the arbitrary deadline set by the by-election in Wentworth.”
Greens Equality Spokesperson Janet Rice said in a statement that the government has the opportunity to put this issue to bed as soon as this week.
“For years the Greens have fought to remove exemptions to our laws that allow religious schools to expel students and fire teachers and staff members simply because of who they are,” Rice said.
“I am pleased that following pressure from the community and the Greens, Labor today announced that they support the Greens’ position.
“Scott Morrison and the Liberals must now listen to the public and commit to working with the Greens and Labor to change our laws to not only stop students being expelled because of who they are, but to stop LGBT+ teachers and staff members from being sacked because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or gender diverse.
“If Scott Morrison works in good faith with the Greens and Labor, we could end these outdated exemptions by the end of this week.
“Our laws should protect LGBTIQ+ Australians from discrimination, not enshrine the right to discriminate against them.”