Religious Discrimination Bill

11 February 2022

Labor believes all Australians have the right to live their lives free of discrimination.
This is why Labor supports the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or activities – just as the law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race, sex, gender identity, sex characteristics and sexual orientation.

But as Labor has made clear repeatedly, any extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework must not come at the expense of existing laws that protect Australians from other forms of discrimination.

The Morrison Government’s religious discrimination legislation, which the Prime Minister now appears to have abandoned, goes some way towards protecting Australians from religious discrimination. But there are aspects of the proposed laws that would diminish existing protections for Australians from other forms of discrimination.

The legislation would also provide inadequate protections to people of minority faiths – particularly against vilification – and fails to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect all school children from discrimination.

That is why Labor moved a number of amendments to change the Government’s legislation. Those amendments would have:

  • prohibited religious vilification;
  • made it clear that in-home aged care service providers cannot discriminate on the basis of religion in the provision of aged care services; and
  • ensured that the “statement of belief” provision in the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill would not remove or diminish any existing protections against discrimination.

Labor was also successful in amending the legislation in the House of Representatives to prohibit discrimination against school children on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.

Due to the success of this amendment the Prime Minister walked away from his commitment to extend anti-discrimination laws by not even allowing the legislation to be debated in the Senate.
As a result of this Government’s decisions, it appears this legislation will not proceed.

As set out in a statement by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, a future Labor government will:

  • enact legislation to prevent discrimination against people of faith, including anti-vilification protections;
  • act to protect all students from discrimination on any ground; and
  • protect teachers from discrimination at work, while maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff.

Anthony Albanese’s full statement can be found here