Submission to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Anti-Discrimination Exceptions for Religious Schools
PIAC’s submission argues that the religious exceptions contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984(Cth) currently do not strike an appropriate balance between the protection of religious freedom and the right to be protected against discrimination.
Specifically, there should not be legislated rights for religious schools to discriminate against students, teachers and other staff on the basis of attributes such as sexual orientation, gender identity or marital or relationship status.
Instead, PIAC has called for the Commonwealth to adopt the approach in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998, and in the current ACT Discrimination Amendment Bill 2018, which allow religious schools to discriminate in the admission of students, and employment of staff, only on the basis of religious belief – and not any other grounds.
This can be implemented by:
- Repealing section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984(Cth)
- Amending section 37 to clarify that section 37(1)(d) does not allow discrimination by religious educational institutions, and
- Amending relevant sections of the Fair Work Act 2009(Cth) to ensure that religious educational institutions are only permitted to discriminate on the basis of religious belief.
PIAC also suggests that, if amendments are made to the Fair Work Act, the protected attributes of gender identity and sex characteristics should be added to ensure trans, gender diverse and intersex employees are protected against unfair dismissal and other adverse treatment.
Finally, PIAC included a copy of our submission to the Religious Freedom Review and a recent joint letter with the Human Rights Law Centre, and legal academics and practitioners, arguing that the Government’s proposed amendments to the test for indirect discrimination in section 7B of the Sex Discrimination Actare unnecessary, will introduce complexity, and will undermine efforts to protect LGBT students against discrimination.