The controversy surrounding Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments has led the government to ensure amendments will be introduced.
In a new statement released October 13, following a letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison by opposition leader Bill Shorten, the government announced it would reassess the Sex Discrimination Act and remove the power for any school to exclude students based on their sexuality.
Morrison said: “Our Government does not support expulsion of students from religious non-state schools on the basis of their sexuality.”
“I will be taking action to ensure amendments are introduced as soon as practicable to make it clear that no student of a non-state school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality,” he added.
PinkNews reported on October 10 that a government-commissioned ‘religious freedom’ report recommended changes that would allow faith schools the power to turn away students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
At the time, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Morrison had defended the report, saying: “We’re not proposing to change that law to take away that existing arrangement that exists.”
However, on October 12, Morrison was quick to backtrack on his previous comments. Speaking to Sky News, Morrison said he would “happily take the criticism” for not ruling out sexuality as a grounds for discrimination of students sooner while also accusing initial media coverage of misrepresenting the report.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to the Australian PM on Friday to offer Labor’s support in passing a bill to review the Sex Discrimination Act and remove exemptions that encourage discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Australian reported that Shorten told Morrison: “These exemptions are anachronistic and are a denial of the dignity of children at any time.”
According to ABC News, Mark Spencer from Christian Schools Australia welcomed the suggested changes yet said it was “absolutely essential” that schools could still choose staff that reflect the beliefs of the school.
Following initial reports that the government was considering the controversial new law, LGBT+ campaigner Rodney Croome of Just.equal said: “There would be an upsurge in LGBTI students being excluded and teachers fired.”
The full ‘religious freedom’ report—compiled by former Labor attorney general Philip Ruddock—is yet to be made public. Shorten has asked the Australian Prime Minister to release the report ahead of the forthcoming by-election.