Submission: Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

Summary of NSWCCL’s submission  

1.     The suite of bills, in their current form must be withdrawn for reconsideration and redrafting, or opposed. They do not get the balance right between the important task of protecting religious adherents and non-believers from religious discrimination; and protecting others from discrimination by religious adherents and non-believers (for ease and economy of words throughout this submission, we will simply refer to religious adherents).

2.     Throughout this submission we make a number of primary and alternative submissions as to amendments which should be made to the bills if they are to proceed through parliament and not be withdrawn for reconsideration. In the following paragraphs, we summarise our primary submissions with respect to key sections of the bills.

3.     In relation to the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, we primarily submit:

a.     Persons making statements of belief should not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws. Clause 12 should be removed.

b.     Religious bodies, particularly in educational and healthcare settings, should not be allowed to discriminate based on religion. Clause 7 should be removed.

c.     The bill should not override state, territory and local government laws. Other elected bodies should be able to make laws, as is their right, free from fetter by the Commonwealth. Clauses 11 and 5(3) should be removed.

d.     Qualifying bodies should be trusted to make their own rules which govern their professions and occupations. Clause 15 should be removed.

e.     Corporations should not receive unprecedented standing to seek relief for religious discrimination. Clause 16(3) should be removed.

4.     In relation to the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, we primarily submit:

a.     Organisations should not be presumptively charitable because they advocate for the traditional view of marriage. They should be subject to the same laws as any other organisation with respect to the regulation of charities. Clause 19 should be removed.

b.     Organisations should not be allowed to refuse access to premises or services for the purposes of a same-sex marriage. Clause 47C should be removed.

c.     These provisions legalise marriage discrimination and are repugnant to the overwhelming public support for marriage equality, the achievement of which was intended to conclusively end marriage discrimination.

5.     More generally we submit:

a.     The most appropriate way to properly protect freedom of religion is through a Human Rights Act or Charter, which contains appropriate measures for the balancing of rights and freedoms against one another. The government should take steps to draft and pass such a measure forthwith.

b.     These bills cannot pass until LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, intersex and others of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression) students and teachers are afforded sufficient protections from discrimination in educational settings. NSWCCL rejects the government’s assertions that these issues are best dealt with in other fora. The issues must be dealt with in this suite of bills.

More information: read our full submission as published on the review website.