House debates

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:39 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

He's been warned twice now, Mr Deputy Speaker. The matter for discussion today, according to the opposition, is the need to remove discrimination against LGBTIQ students and school staff. As we know, all Australians are free to choose their religion and are entitled to express and practise their religion and beliefs without intimidation and without interference, as long as those practices are within the framework of Australian law. We hear from those opposite that they want to change the law, which they're entitled to say. And we're entitled to have an open and honest debate about it.

In 2013, the Gillard government amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to provide an exemption for religious schools to discriminate against students and employees on the basis of sexual orientation, in certain circumstances. As the Prime Minister announced on 13 October, the government will introduce amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to ensure that religious schools are no longer permitted to expel students on this basis. In the drafting of the amendments, the government will carefully consider how to protect the best interests of children. The amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act are necessary and appropriate to provide greater certainty to students and their parents.

We heard the member for Scullin talk about certain instances and certain practices where there has been discrimination against teachers. I must admit that in my electorate of Swan I have a mixed bag of religion based, full religion and public schools. There are 64 schools in my electorate, and in the 10 years I have been there not one example of a teacher being discriminated against because of their sexuality has come to me. I am saying not that it doesn't exist but that in my particular electorate I've never seen it. In the discussion we're having today, on the matter proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we should talk about these things in an open forum and we should have the respect that everyone needs to have when it comes to discussing religion and, in particular, discrimination.

As I said, Labor changed the laws back in 2013. If you look at what Mark Dreyfus said in 2013 in his explanatory memorandum to the bill, you'll see it was:

The Bill will extend the exemption at section 38 of the SDA, so that otherwise discriminatory conduct on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity will not be prohibited for educational institutions established for religious purpose.

That bill was passed, and I'm sure it had the support of the opposition at that time. I look forward to contributing to and hearing the rest of the arguments on this. (Time expired)


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