Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a promise to gay students who fear the unintended consequences of proposed religious discrimination laws.
He also extended an olive branch to gay teachers at faith-based schools.
At the last election, Mr Morrison pledged to protect those students as well as religious Australians.
But the proposed laws introduced to Parliament this week do not cover students. Instead, they will have to wait another 12 months for changes to other legislation.
The bill aims to make it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their religion and increases protection for those who make statements of belief, provided they are not malicious.
But equality advocates have raised serious concerns about the bill, highlighting it could allow religious individuals and organisations to discriminate against queer Australians.
Greens senator Janet Rice slammed the proposed legislation as a “Trojan horse for hate”.
“Our laws should protect all of us equally. Morrison’s bill will do the opposite,” Senator Rice said.
“The Liberals are trying to increase discrimination, not reduce it.”
Mr Morrison hit back at criticism when questioned on Thursday, insisting gay students and teachers would not be harmed by the bill.
“Students should not be expelled from a religious school and nor should gay teachers who have been employed at those schools be dismissed if they are gay,” he said.
“And this bill does nothing to enable such a dismissal. It provides no powers for that.
The Prime Minister insisted the issue of potential discrimination against gay people was “dealt with” under the Sex Discrimination Act.
“What I introduced today was about religious discrimination and this was about ensuring that people who hold religious beliefs or who choose not to hold religious beliefs – that that is considered a protected attribute like other things that are protected attributes under discrimination law,” Mr Morrison said.
“This brings it into line. There was a gap and that needs to be fixed.”
Labor has confirmed they will back the proposed laws, but only after they are scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.
“Labor supports the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs,” Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.
“Any extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework should not remove protections that already exist in the law to protect Australians from other forms of discrimination.
“It is particularly important that the Morrison Government support the establishment of a Joint Select Committee, so that all members of parliament – including Members of the House of Representatives – can participate in the parliamentary inquiry process.”
Latest Travel News