Religious hospitals and aged care providers will be able to discriminate when it comes to hiring staff under the Morrison government’s redrafted religious freedom laws.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Attorney-General Christian Porter said the change is “significant” and will give faith-operated hospitals and aged care providers the same rights as schools and other religious bodies to make staffing decisions on the basis of religion.
“The religious hospitals and aged care providers themselves recognise that competing objectives of providing access to health services and maintaining a faith-based identity must be reconciled,” Porter said.
He added there were “very few” instances in which hospitals and aged care homes would “consider religion or lack of religion before making a decision to accommodate a person”.
Just.equal spokesman Brian Greig OAM called the proposed legislation “appalling, damaging and totally unnecessary” and said the changes to the bill would only result in further discrimination against LGBTQI people.
“The bill has gone from bad to worse because what the religious right have successfully done is pushed the special religious exemptions they currently have in schools that allow them to discriminate against LGBTI students and teachers into the medical system, into hospitals and aged care,” Greig told the Star Observer.
“They don’t want to appear homophobic, so they dress it up as something else. They say ‘we want to protect our ethos and values’, but that’s just a way of camouflaging their homophobia.
“What this is about is being able to refuse employment to LGBTI people and sack people if they are lesbian or gay. If an organisation decides that homosexuality and same-sex relationships are against their faith, they would be within their rights to not hire gay and lesbian people.”
He added it’s up to the Opposition to block the bill in the Senate but said some Labor MPs, including leader Anthony Albanese, had been “unacceptably silent” so far.
“The ball is in Labor’s court. All eyes are on them and it’s time they spoke out. Our community looks to them to defend the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.”
The redrafted bill comes after the opening of Queensland’s first LGBTQI aged care home in Parkwood earlier this month.