Submission: Religious Freedom Bills 2019

NSWCCL opposes many aspects of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, most significantly the over-privileging of religious rights in relation to all other rights.  It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections, and in its present form, the Bill fails to address pressing issues.

It is clearly important for Australia’s discrimination laws to work cohesively together and for no one right to be automatically privileged over another/others.  The protection and balancing of human rights would be greatly assisted by the adoption of an Australian Charter of Human Rights and by a review of Australia’s state and federal human rights laws to ensure the appropriate coherence and consistency. The current Review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation will contribute to this from the perspective of religious rights - but the broader exercise is necessary.

One of the major disappointments with this Bill is the failure to include much needed and explicitly promised protections for LGBTQI+ students in religious and private schools. This Bill has been hastily drawn up in advance of the report from the inquiry into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation under way by the ALRC,  but one of the most urgent and disturbing manifestations of inappropriate religious exemptions for otherwise unlawful discriminatory acts against children has deliberately not been addressed in the Bill and instead left to the ALRC review. Simultaneously the reporting date for the ALRC review has been pushed back to December 2020.

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