Australia’s PM Scott Morrison defends plan to allow discrimination against gay schoolchildren
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended plans to hand faith schools the right to discriminate against gay children.
A government-commissioned ‘religious freedom’ report, that is under consideration by the country’s cabinet, has recommended changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to give faith schools more powers to turn away people that conflict with their beliefs.
The proposals would give religious schools the right to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status, as well as the right to discriminate in employment. The exemption would not extend to discrimination based on race or disability.
LGBT+ activists reacted with horror to the news, but PM Scott Morrison defended the plan on Wednesday, while on the campaign trail for a crucial by-election.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison said: “We’re not proposing to change that law to take away that existing arrangement that exists.
“We have a report that’s been provided to the government. It’s a report to government, not from government.
“It’s a report that the government will be considering and developing a balanced response to, and we will do that in our orderly process, taking it through cabinet.”
Asked if he was “comfortable with a school expelling a student because they are gay or lesbian,” the PM replied: “It is existing law.”
Some states in Australia, including Tasmania, have laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The proposed amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act would effectively overturn this nationwide and allow all religious schools to deny education to gay children, and employment to gay teachers, on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
LGBT+ campaigner Rodney Croome of Just.equal said: “A federal law based on the Ruddock recommendation would give new life to old prejudices.
“There would be an upsurge in LGBTI students being excluded and teachers fired. Mr Morrison has mislead the nation by suggesting nothing will change.”
Croome, also a spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, added: “Schools should be places of learning, not breeding grounds of prejudice.
“Any school that receives public money should abide by the same rules as the rest of society, including the same rules about fair-treatment and discrimination.”
Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten has hit out at the government over the proposals.
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According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Shorten said: “The fact of the matter is that every child is entitled to human dignity. We shouldn’t even be having this debate.”
“If Mr Morrison won’t release this secret report before the Wentworth by-election, he is telling the voters in Wentworth that he doesn’t trust them.
“It is an expert report. What could be in that report which is so bad that it has to remain hidden?
“There should be no extension of discriminatory rights against people in this country.”