Scott Morrison suffered a huge setback early on Thursday morning with the House of Representatives voting to introduce protections for gay and trans students.

Five Liberal MPs crossed the floor of the house and voted with Labor and Green MPs to support cross bench MP Rebekha Sharkie’s motion on the Human Rights Amendment Bill. The motion sought repeal of provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act that allow faith-based schools to expel gay and trans students.

Morrison had resisted pleas during the debate from moderate Liberal MPs for changes to the Religious Discrimination Bill to protect trans students.

“During the course of this debate, the issue of transgender children and teachers has also been raised,” Morrison said in the House, adding, “And there’ll be a time and place to address that as well.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had urged MPs to support the motion to amend the Sex Discrimination Act. “No child should be discriminated against. Overwhelmingly, Australians of faith would agree with this too…Australian families are going to wake up in a few hours and look on with sadness and anger if this does not occur,” said Albanese.

Sharkie’s motion was similar to the one proposed by Labor to protect gay and trans students. The motion passed the House 65-59, after five Liberal MPs defied Morrison’s call to support the bill in its original form, without the amendment to protect trans students. The Liberal MPs who crossed the floor were Katie Allen, Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Bridget Archer and Fiona Martin.

Labor Amendments Defeated

Earlier, the Bill passed the house with support from Labor and now moves to the Senate. Labor has said they will move amendments to the Bill.

Labor’s motion to remove the contentious “statements of belief” was defeated after the Speaker’s casting vote. The statements of belief provision would protect discriminatory religious statements as long as they are not made in a malicious way and don’t threaten, harass or vilify.

Other Labor amendments to ban vilification on the grounds of religion and prohibit in-home aged care services from discriminating against people on the basis of religion were also defeated.

Labor faced criticism for helping the government to pass the bill in the House of Representatives. Greens MP Adam Band tweeted, “sadly Labor voted with the Liberals to pass Morrison’s hate bill”.

Labor Defends Vote On Religious Discrimination Bill

However, Albanese defended the Labor’s position and promised to introduce amendments in the Senate, where the government does not have sufficient numbers to pass the bill on their own.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve managed to achieve,” Albanese said at a press conference after the vote. Albanese said that if Labor had voted against the Bill and not tried to improve it, the legislation would have passed without amendments. “As a direct result of the position we took, this bill has been improved. And students, children in schools, will be all protected from discrimination and from any action upon objections of who they are.”

“And those people who argued that we should just vote no and not participate also ignored the fact that the issue of discrimination against people on the basis of their faith is real and it is something that Labor supports action on, just like we support removing discrimination on the basis of age, on the basis of gender, on the basis of disability.”

“The amendment carried will prohibit schools discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship, or marital status. That makes an enormous difference,” said Albanese.

Albanese said that Labor would be pursuing further amendments when the Bill is introduced in the Senate. The amendments that the Labor said they would introduce include, prohibit discrimination against children on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity, making it clear that ‘statements of belief’ does not override state-based anti-discrimination laws, prohibit religious vilification and ensure in-home aged care providers do not discriminate on the basis of religion.

‘Amendments Do Not Go Far Enough’

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown tweeted that her reactions to the vote in the House were mixed.

“Truly mixed emotions as five Liberal MPs cross the floor and vote with Greens, Labor and Crossbench to protect LGBTQ+ students, but only after the Religious Discrimination Bill passed with dangerous provisions intact. In the Senate we will keep fighting for laws that protect us all, equally,” tweeted Brown. 

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson, Rodney Croome said the amendments do not go far enough and will override state laws that protect the LGBTQI community.
“We will never accept a deal that gives rights to one part of our community but actively takes them from another,” Croome said in a statement.
“The amendment trying to protect LGBTIQ+ students does not go far enough because it does not remove the ability of schools to discriminate under cover of ‘religious belief’, as Citipointe College attempted.”
“Meanwhile, the Government and Labor have agreed not to extend discrimination protections to teachers in faith-based schools, and have worked together to take these protections away from teachers and other staff where they already exist in Tasmania, Victoria, the ACT and Queensland,” said Croome.


If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.





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