Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed down on plans to introduce the government’s Religious Discrimination Bill that could potentially enshrine religious discrimination against LGBTI people, saying he will consult with the Opposition on the legislation.
However the government still intends to pass the legislation before the end of the year, and has not said whether it will consult with other stakeholder groups.
Equality Australia is concerned by this omission, with its Director of Legal Advocacy Lee Carnie saying she is strongly concerned that no commitment has been given by the Prime Minister to engage directly with either the LGBTI community, or with women’s groups.
“We know that LGBTIQ+ people and women are those most at risk of experiencing discrimination by religious groups based on religious beliefs, and we hold grave concerns that if this legislation is not crafted carefully it will hand a license to discriminate to religious organisations,’ Carnie said.
“We cannot support any legislation that hands a sword to one group to attack or harm another, and we need the Prime Minister to hear and understand our concerns.”
Carnie urged the Prime Minister to commit to meeting with LGBTI and women’s groups and said that Equality Australia would be doing “everything possible to ensure the voices of LGBTIQ+ people were heard.”
“In response to our pre-election survey the Morrison Government committed to consult with LGBTIQ+ organisations across the broad range of policy areas affecting LGBTIQ+ Australians,” Carnie said.
“We are calling on the Government to honour that commitment now.”
The government published its intention to move forward with a “Religious Discrimination” bill earlier today which would make it “unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of their religious belief or activity (including lack of religious belief) and establish the statutory office of the Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.”
The bill would also, “amend existing Commonwealth legislation relating to freedom of religion, including amendments to marriage law, charities law and objects clauses in existing anti-discrimination legislation.”