Victorian Liberal MP Gives Personal ‘Iron-Clad’ Guarantee To Protect LGBT Community From Discrimination
Deputy Liberal leader David Southwick has given a personal “iron-clad guarantee” that the LGBTQI community would be protected from discrimination when a future Coalition government makes changes to theVictoria’s newly-enacted Equal Opportunity laws.
The Member for Caulfield reiterated Liberal leader Matt Guy’s promise that the party would change the state’s anti-discrimination laws to allow faith-based schools to recruit staff who share their religious beliefs.
Southwick outlined the Liberal party’s policy in a letter to Jewish LGBTQI group Aleph Melbourne. The letter for the first time puts on record the party’ plans to amend provisions of the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Act, enacted by the Daniel Andrews-led Labor government in 2021. The law prohibits religious schools from sacking or refusing to hire LGBTQI staff.
Change In law Will Not Affect Existing LGBTQI Staff, Says Liberal MP
The MP said that the proposed change in law would only impact future hires and not existing LGBTQI staff in faith-based schools.
“The Liberals will protect religious freedoms to allow Jewish schools to employ people who are aligned with their values,” said Southwick, adding, “These laws will not grant schools any power to terminate staff based on values and no existing staff would be impacted by the changes. Just as importantly, an individual’s sexuality, gender identity and ethnicity would also be equally protected from discrimination and unfair dismissal under these laws.”
LGBTQI organisations would be consulted before the law is changed, the MP assured Aleph Melbourne in the letter.
“I want to give you my iron-clad guarantee that any amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act will protect our LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination. As Liberals, our belief in equality is non-negotiable,” claimed Southwick.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the peak body of Australia’s largest Jewish community and prominent Jewish schools had clarified that they were not looking for a change to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Liberals Want To Amend Victoria’s Anti-Discrimination Law
Last month, Guy had reportedly assured the Islamic Council of Victoria that Liberals were “committed to amend the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) ‘to allow for the right of a faith-based organisation to employ a person that aligns with the religious organisation’s values’”.
The Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Act, which came into force in Victoria in June 2022, prohibited religious organisations and faith-based schools from sacking or refusing to hire staff on account of their sexuality, gender identity or marital status. The schools could consider the religious beliefs of a staff member only for roles such as religious studies teacher or to recruit priests, ministers, religious leaders or their members. The Liberals had voted against the law in Parliament.
The Liberal MP referred to the party supporting the Andrews government’s legislation to ban gay conversion practices and pointed to past Liberal governments decriminalising homosexuality in Victoria, putting PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Malcom Turnball government “delivering” marriage equality.
‘Liberals Have Fabricated A Hypothetical Scenario’
Michael Barnett, co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne welcomed Southwick’s “personal guarantee to look after the best interests of LGBTIQ+ people” but added that the organisation had concerns with the party’s policies.
“I am concerned that the Liberal Party as a whole does not share his strong support for our wellbeing. One just has to look at the untold damage they did to trans people by running an anti-trans candidate like Katherine Deves in NSW in the recent Federal election,” Barnett told Star Observer.
“I am also confounded as to what actual problem the Liberal Party feels it needs to introduce this legislation for. To my thinking they have fabricated a hypothetical scenario and are jumping in to save the day as the good guys. It’s the stuff of comic books, but it’s not funny,” added Barnett.
In July 2022, Victorian Liberals selected controversial anti-trans councillor Moira Deeming for the Upper House Western Metropolitan Region seat in Parliament. They have also selected Renee Heath for the safe upper house Eastern Victorian region seat. Renee has links to a controversial church – her father Brian Heath is a senior pastor at the City Builders Church, which has in the past been accused of reportedly encouraging its members to take part in a now-closed gay conversion therapy program run by Living Waters.
The Victorian state elections are scheduled to be held on November 26, 2022. Southwick said a future Victorian Liberal government would set up a dedicated professional legal support service for the LGBTQIA+ community at the Pride centre and invest $1 million over four years into Joy 94.9.