The NSW Government has moved a motion establishing an inquiry into a private members bill introduced by One Nation NSW Leader Mark Latham MLC.
The announcement of a joint select committee to inquire into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 comes after delays to the introduction of the Federal Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, which was set to be tabled in early March. The One Nation Bill contains a number of alarming provisions which could adversely affect, among others, LGBT people, divorced and unmarried people, as well as women.
“As we come to grips with the human cost of COVID-19 and the road to recovery, it’s hard to see how a discussion about a Bill that privileges the rights of a few above the interests of the broader community is useful or important. Now, more than ever, we need laws that protect us all, equally, rather than divide our community,” said Equality Australia CEO, Anna Brown.
The Bill elevates religious belief above other human rights, giving special protections to religious activities that may breach laws and harm others.
The Bill gives significant power to organisations and even corporate bodies that define themselves as religious, allowing them to challenge NSW government programs that contradict their religions. This effectively prohibits the NSW government requiring taxpayer-funded religious schools and service providers to treat everyone equally when delivering public services.
These provisions are in addition to broad exemptions for religious schools, charities, and other faith-based organisations— entrenching their ability to discriminate on the basis of someone’s religion (or lack thereof) in the provision of services, education, and employment. These exemptions add to existing religious exemptions for attributes such as marital status, homosexuality and transgender status.
Anna Brown said “The NSW One Nation Leader has repeatedly made denigrating comments about LGBTIQ+ people, Muslim people, migrants, women, and victims of domestic violence. The community should be suspicious of a Bill introduced by One Nation that purports to protect people equally”,
“Equality Australia is very concerned by the introduction of legislation that entrenches double standards. This Bill threatens to undermine equality and could cause real harm, particularly for LGBT people, women, the unmarried and divorced, and people with different beliefs to the faith-based organisations they interact with”,
“Whilst everyone has the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religious belief, no belief (religious or not) should trump the right of an individual to live, work, or study with dignity”,
“Equality Australia will continue to analyse the Bill and share our analysis with the community. We will always advocate for laws that protect all of us, equally”.