On 25 November 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021. This is the third attempt by the Federal government to amend religious discrimination legislation.
Do not be misled by the name of this Parliamentary Bill nor the rhetoric that accompanies its proposed legislation. This proposed legislation is purported to be protecting people from discrimination, instead it provides employers with new rights to discriminate.
The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, if accepted, will:
- privilege the rights of religious organisations over individual employees’ beliefs, even where their beliefs or activities have no relevance to their job;
- act as a mechanism to discriminate against IEU members who raise complaints, seek assistance, or take other action in their workplace to stand up for their own rights or the rights of others;
- allow religious bodies – schools, hospitals, aged care facilities and accommodation providers – to hire, fire or promote any worker based on their religion, regardless of their attributes for the job; and
- protect people who make discriminatory religious statements of belief, even if they are offensive, inappropriate, and harmful.
Overrides current state/territory protections
The IEU has long campaigned for anti-discrimination protections within legislation and has won many protections for IEU members within current state legislation.
The Religious Discrimination Bill will override state and territory anti-discrimination legislation and any protections provided.
The removal of state/territory discrimination protections will make LGBTIQ+ staff and students in faith-based schools vulnerable.
In the last 40 years of discrimination laws in Australia, there is hardly a single example of a federal law overriding discrimination protections granted under state and territory laws.
The Federal government continues to polarise and disenfranchise the rights of IEU members who work in faith-based schools.
Members should not need to fear discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, sex, gender, disability or other personal attributes. Practices in faith-based schools, and indeed in any endeavour conducted for the public by faith-based organisations should reflect community standards and expectations.
This article is extracted from the IEU federal office’s IEU Speaks – 25 November 2021