Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Questions without Notice
Religious Freedom Review
My question is to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, when asked about laws which allow discrimination against LGBTI teachers, the Treasurer said, 'I don't think these laws are right,' and today Liberal senator Dean Smith has said he supports 'amendments to remove discrimination against LGBTI teachers'. Will the Prime Minister join with Labor to ensure that teachers can't be sacked just because of who they are and whom they love?
I thank the member for his question. What I said yesterday, and I'll say it again today, is that the issues relating to the broader religious freedom report will be dealt with once we've had the opportunity as a government to provide our response and release the full report. There will be time enough to deal with those important issues down the track, and we look forward to doing that. What I have written to the Leader of the Opposition about is ensuring that we act right now in an area of absolute consensus when it comes to the issue of children who are in schools and may have fears or anxieties related to the way that this issue was misrepresented over the last couple of weeks. We can deal with that once and for all. We can practically deal with this issue and we shouldn't be playing politics with it. We should just be able to get on and do it.
Even the member who asked me the question today has admitted, in his interview today with Fran Kelly, 'The question of the exemption for staff, teachers and other staff working in religious schools is a complex one.' That's what he said. He said, 'We're going to continue that conversation that the Leader of the Opposition, Bill, spoke of with religious organisations that run schools, as to how to deal with this complex problem.' There are many views on this and we will deal with those views, and we will do it an orderly way and we'll do it in an adult way with proposals before us that can be consulted on and discussed. But what I think we should be doing now is legislating—taking the opportunity of this sitting fortnight to legislate to ensure that children are protected from the laws that were introduced, I remind those opposite, by the Labor Party. They introduced them. The member for Sydney said in only January that there were 'no plans' to change anti-discrimination exemptions, and she said on 12 October that it is 'not Labor's plan to reduce any of the existing exemptions'. Now, I am happy to concede that there are many positions on this and this is a complex issue, as the member for Isaacs has said, so we will deal with it in a methodical way when there is a proposal on the table from the government in response to the review and then we can deal with that matter. For now, the Attorney is working with the shadow Attorney to ensure that we have a legislative amendment to honour what I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition about. It was flagged on the weekend and I wrote to him on Monday.