Religious Discrimination Bill

By Terri Butler MP

09 February 2022

Australia’s existing National anti-discrimination laws fall short.

They allow for discrimination against students.

They lack a prohibition against discrimination or vilification on the ground of religion.

Labor doesn’t support discrimination against children. We will move to amend the government’s religious discrimination bill to prevent discrimination against all children. If that is unsuccessful, we will change the law in government, if we are elected.

The government’s bill adds the attribute of religion to the nation’s anti discrimination laws. But it does not contain a prohibition against religious vilification.

Labor successfully fought against Abbott government attempts to water down laws prohibiting racial vilification. There should be equivalent protections against religious vilification. Everyone would be aware of vilification directed towards women wearing hijabs, for example. That sort of harassment should be prohibited by our National anti-discrimination laws.

We will move to amend the government’s bill, to establish protection against religious vilification. If that amendment is unsuccessful, we will change the law in government, if we are elected.

We will move our amendments to the government’s bill in the House and in the Senate.  People will recall that when parliament achieved the Medivac changes, we did so by moving amendments to a government home affairs bill.

Once again, we have the rare opportunity to make change by amending a government bill.

If this bill makes it to the Senate, that maximises the likelihood of having our amendments pass. If they pass, we will insist on them.

Labor believes all Australians have the right to live their lives free of discrimination.

Labor will also be moving other amendments to change the law, to:

  • make it clear that in-home aged service providers cannot discriminate on the basis of religion in the provision of aged care services; and
  • make it clear that the “statement of belief” provision does not remove or diminish any existing protections against discrimination.

As I said above, Labor will move our amendments in the House and the Senate. If any of our amendments are successful in either the House or the Senate we will insist on them.

Scott Morrison made an election commitment to work across the Parliament in the spirit of bipartisanship to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill that already enjoyed broad cross-party support.

He broke that promise, and now he is trying to rush a bill through the Parliament on the eve of a federal election.

The Australian people deserve better.