‘We’re being locked out’: Morrison Government urged to extend timeline of inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill

30 November 2021 – National LGBTIQ+ group, Equality Australia, has criticised the Morrison Government’s timeline for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry into the Religious Discrimination Bill, calling on the Government to extend the timeline so the committee can properly consider the impact of the proposed laws on vulnerable groups.

In her letter referring the Bill to the committee, the Attorney-General stipulated February 4 as the date it must report to parliament. The committee’s process, released today, allows less than a month for submissions and lists only three public hearing dates, all to be held in Canberra over the summer holidays.

“Individuals from affected communities, particularly women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people and people of faith should be at the very heart of the Parliamentary process established to consider the impacts of the Religious Discrimination Bill,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.

“Instead, the Government’s timeline is locking us out.

“Anti-discrimination law is specifically about the prevention of harm to individuals, yet the committee will not be able to hear from many of those individuals because they are unable to travel to Canberra for hearings at such short notice.

Equality Australia yesterday joined with representatives of faith, multicultural, business, disability, women’s organisations, unions, ACOSS and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to raise their concerns with the Bill and the inquiry process.

They called on the Morrison Government to guarantee that the Bill will not be brought to a vote before the inquiry has reported to Parliament, and that the timeline be extended to allow meaningful participation of impacted communities.

“People with disability stand to lose protections under the changes proposed in the Religious Discrimination Bill so it’s important that the community be included in the inquiry process and hearings be accessible to all members of the community who wish to participate” said Sebastian
Zagarella, CEO, from People with Disability Australia.

Dr Karen Price, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said “We remain concerned of the potential impact of the bill on the delivery and access to some women’s health services, and vulnerable groups’ access to health services they need.

“The proposed law could compound negative community attitudes toward those most vulnerable including minority groups and the LGBTQI+ community, as well as those in rural areas with fewer health services available.

“These impacts must be properly understood before the Bill is brought to a vote, through a process that allows these vulnerable groups to provide evidence in public hearings.”

Media Contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154, tara.ravens@equalityaustralia.org.au