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Equality - Religious Discrimination


Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (14:58):

My question is to the Prime Minister.

My community is deeply concerned about protecting all Australians from discrimination, no matter their gender, sexuality or faith. During the last election, a young trans person came to me, heartbroken at the exclusion they faced at school. They asked me to stand up for the LGBTQIA community. Every day we delay action on discrimination law is another day a student could be excluded from school because of who they are. How can parliament work together to strengthen protections for the LGBTQIA community as well as for people of faith?

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerPrime Minister) (14:59): I thank the member for Wentworth for her question and for her commitment, which I share, that no Australians should be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, their sexuality or their faith. This is something that has been discussed in this chamber, prior to the member for Wentworth's arrival, for some period of time. I support religious liberty, and I think that it would be an important step forward if this parliament were to pass legislation to have the adoption of a religious discrimination bill. The government has prepared two pieces of legislation, a religious discrimination bill and a Sex Discrimination Act amendment bill, to achieve the objectives of ensuring that people of faith can practice their faith free of discrimination and that religious based schools can operate on the basis of their faith, including on employment issues. We have consulted widely, and I thank the Attorney-General for the consultation that has occurred with faith based organisations. I've met with many religious leaders, including a roundtable in the middle of last year with a group of religious leaders.

What I've said from the very beginning, including at that roundtable, is that there needs to be bipartisan support for this position, because, as Senator Birmingham said this morning, I think it is a reasonable ambition to want to seek bipartisanship. If it is going to be passed through the Senate, given the nature, it needs the support not just of the government but of either the coalition or the Greens political party. That's just the numerical facts of what is there.

We will work with everyone, including the crossbenchers, on these issues. I have said, though, that we wouldn't go through a parliamentary committee process. Since 2016, there have been at least 10 inquiries, there have been over 262 consultations and there have been over 70,000 submissions to committees. It is now time to determine whether we'll progress forward or not. I am up for progressing forward on the basis of a bipartisan position, and I hope that that can be achieved. If not, then that of course will be a decision for this parliament as well.

I know that, for so many Australians, the issues of discrimination are very central to them, and I thank the member for Wentworth for the way in which she has taken up these issues in such a considered and respectful way. (Time expired)

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