Thorpey fronts campaign opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill as 250 organisations sign open letter

November 23, 2021 - Olympian Ian Thorpe has today teamed up with LGBTIQ+ organisation, Equality Australia, to launch a campaign urging the Australian Parliament to oppose a Religious Discrimination Bill that fails to protect everyone in the Australian community equally.

“The Morrison government’s Religious Discrimination Bill is back on the agenda. It’s a piece of legislation that threatens to take us backwards as a society, winding back hard-fought protections for women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability and, ironically, people of faith”, said Ian Thorpe.

“According to reports last week, the government has scaled back some aspects of the bill, but what remains would override existing protections for some of the community’s most vulnerable and compromise access to healthcare without judgement and inclusive workplaces.

“The Australian parliament must come together to ensure our laws protect all of us, equally, no matter who we are, what we believe, or whom we love.”

In a video released by Equality Australia today, Ian Thorpe joins professional basketballer, Lauren Jackson, writer and commentator, Benjamin Law, and others who would be impacted by the proposed new laws.

It is accompanied by an open letter signed by over 250 unions, medical bodies, businesses, philanthropists, disability, human rights, women’s, and LGBTIQ+ organisations, published in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald calling on the Prime Minister to deliver fair and equal discrimination laws that protect all people in the community equally.

“It appears that the Morrison government has listened to some of the concerns of women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability and people of faith, scaling back the so-called 'Folau clause' and provisions that would have allowed healthcare workers to refuse treatment to people on religious grounds”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.

"But the Morrison Government has retained some of the worst provisions of the Bill, including damaging statements of belief provisions that would override existing state and territory anti-discrimination protections. These provisions undermine everyone's right to respect and dignity at work, school and whenever they access goods and services like healthcare.”

Late last week, Education Minister, Alan Tudge revealed that the yet-to-be-seen Bill will include new provisions designed to override state laws such as those currently being debated in the Victorian Parliament designed to ensure that that a religious organisation can only discriminate against people based on religion when religion is actually relevant to the role.

“Laws like those being debated in Victoria at the moment bring the law into step with 21st century community expectations and the practices of many faith-based organisations that have diverse workforces and seek to treat people with dignity and respect”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.

“Overriding hard-fought protections in Victoria and other states would be an extraordinary act of overreach.”

In his comments to the media, Alan Tudge has repeatedly claimed that discrimination against LGBTQ+ teachers and staff will not be allowed under the Religious Discrimination Bill, a claim Anna Brown says is misleading.

"We cannot forget that existing federal law specifically allows discrimination against LGBT teachers and students in religious schools”, said Anna Brown CEO of Equality Australia

“Nothing in this Religious Discrimination Bill acts to fulfil the Morrison Government's previous commitment to protect LGBT students. In fact, the government's Bill will licence more discrimination against all our communities, by overriding existing protections for women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people and even people of faith,”

"No one should be discriminated against at work or at school because of who they are, who they love or what they believe.”

“We urge the government to abandon its current proposal, but if a Bill is introduced in the coming weeks, it must be sent to a public inquiry so parliamentarians can hear from people who will be directly impacted by these laws.

 "The Parliament must join together to reject any bill that would take us backwards or undermine existing anti-discrimination protections."

For media inquiries, contact Matthew Phillips on 0408 541 717 or media@equalityaustralia.org.au

Text of the open letter, and a full list of signatories is available here: equalityaustralia.org.au/PM