Three state Labor politicians have broken ranks on exemptions in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, a month after Premier Kristina Keneally pledged that neither she nor her party would touch the Act.
At an Australian Christian Lobby forum last month Keneally pledged not to reform the Act.
When a representative of the Presbyterian Church asked her if she and her party would make that commitment, Keneally said, “We won’t be making any changes in that regard. I can rule that out.
“I have seen a difference of opinion and a door open on the side of the Shadow Attorney General in NSW but I’m very clear [on that] as is my Attorney General.”
But in an exclusive interview with the Star Observer, Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt said she was concerned that religious schools could refuse to teach students because of their sexual orientation and she had written to NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos on the issue.
“I am very concerned about the idea that a private school or a non-government school could expel a student because they are gay or lesbian,” Tebbutt said. “That is something that is very concerning.
“Constituents have come to me about this and I have written to the Attorney General about that issue.”
Education and training minister Verity Firth also told the Star Observer of her concerns about exemptions in the Act.
“I think it’s time to review the Anti-Discrimination Act to make sure it reflects modern community expectations,” Firth said.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Penny Sharpe MLC, agreed.
“I cannot see how throwing young people out of school or sacking teachers just because they are gay can be justified,” Sharpe told the Star Observer.
“I do not support the exemptions in their current form.
“There is a need to review the Act. Any review would need to examine whether any exemption could be justified.”
Last week the Opposition Whip in the Legislative Council, Don Harwin, and the Liberal candidates for the seats of Sydney and Coogee, Adrian Bartels and Bruce Notley-Smith, expressed personal misgivings about the scope of exemptions in the Act after a similar pledge by Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell.