Anthony Albanese Says no Religious Freedom Changes Without Bipartisan Support

Anthony Albanese has informed his Labor caucus he won’t proceed with changes to religious freedoms – a Labor election promise – if Peter Dutton doesn’t offer bipartisan support. Addressing his colleagues, the Prime Minister said two pieces of legislation were in draft form and the government had produced a “balanced position” that protected religious liberty and the right of schools to employ, while also protecting the rights of children. Mr Albanese revealed he’d met with the Opposition Leader on the matter and the government would only go ahead with legislation, which hasn’t yet been considered by caucus, if there was bipartisanship. “If there is not agreement, then now is not the time to have a divisive debate, especially with the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” Mr Albanese said, according to a caucus spokesman. Ahead of the election, ­Mr. Albanese promised Labor would introduce its own religious discrimination bill. In November that year, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus tasked the Australian Law Reform Commission with looking at how to shield students and teachers against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while also ensuring educational institutions could maintain their “religious ethos”.

Peak bodies representing LGBTQI+ Australians are also urging the PM to fulfil his election commitment and deliver laws that will “protect all of us, equally”, warning him he would sell out students and staff if he didn’t proceed with religious discrimination changes because of a lack of bipartisanship. Mr. Albanese informed caucus he wouldn’t proceed with changes to religious freedoms – a key election promise – if Peter Dutton didn’t offer bipartisan support. Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said Mr. Albanese could take simple and quick steps to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools if he was serious about fulfilling his election commitment. “While we continue to wait for the law to change, more people will lose their jobs and more children will be denied leadership roles or be forced to leave school,” Mr. Kassisieh said. “We have spent more than a decade raising this issue, with many reviews and attempts to change the law. Now is the time for laws that protect all of us, equally.”

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said a failure to pursue changes would deliver a “crushing blow” for those waiting for better protections, including women, people who are divorced or in de facto relationships, and people of faith. Just Equal Australian spokesman Rodney Croome said Mr. Albanese had “sold out” LGBTQIA+ students and staff by giving a “veto” to the Coalition. “I urge all LGBTIQA+ Australians who voted Labor at the last election hoping faith schools would finally be governed by the same laws as everyone else, to call and write to Anthony Albanese now, urging him to stick to his promise,” he said. “Tasmania has banned discrimination by faith-based schools against LGBTIQA staff and students for a quarter century without the sky falling in. Other states have recently followed suit. It’s deeply disappointing Anthony Albanese has put prejudice ahead of the equal human rights of vulnerable students and hardworking teachers.” Mr. Croome also criticised comments by the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, who called on Labor to reject law reform proposals to remove protections for religious institutions from the Sex Discrimination Act.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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