Dis­crim­i­na­tion to con­tinue

SCHOOLS’ ABIL­ITY TO RE­JECT STU­DENTS TO RE­MAIN

Shepparton News - - NEWS - By Tara Whitsed

A long-awaited re­view into re­li­gious free­doms in Aus­tralia does not rec­om­mend any changes to the ba­sis on which faith­based schools can re­ject stu­dents or teach­ers, the at­tor­ney-gen­eral has con­firmed.

Some states — but not all — al­ready al­low schools to dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or re­la­tion­ship sta­tus.

But Goul­burn Valley Pride sec­re­tary Damien Stevens said the find­ings, none­the­less, were not in the best in­ter­est of chil­dren and were likely to add to the al­ready un­ac­cept­ably high rates of de­pres­sion, self-harm and sui­cide among young LGBTIQ peo­ple.

‘‘All schools should have some re­la­tion­ship to rep­re­sent­ing the broader Aus­tralian so­ci­ety,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘If re­li­gious schools are per­mit­ted to ex­clude LGBTIQ chil­dren from their schools, around one third of Aus­tralians will con­tinue not to have any nat­u­ral con­nec­tion with LGBTIQ peo­ple, po­ten­tially in­grain­ing ho­mo­pho­bia, bi­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia in Aus­tralian so­ci­ety in­def­i­nitely.’’

The com­ments come af­ter a Fair­fax Me­dia re­port sug­gested the re­li­gious free­doms re­view rec­om­mended the right be en­shrined in the fed­eral Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act to en­sure a con­sis­tent na­tional ap­proach.

The re­view’s panel, chaired by for­mer Lib­eral min­is­ter Phillip Rud­dock, said it ac­cepted the right of schools to se­lect or pref­er­ence stu­dents who up­hold their re­li­gious con­vic­tions.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son played down the pro­posal on Wed­nes­day and said such ex­emp­tions to anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws al­ready ex­isted.

‘‘We’re not propos­ing to change that law to take away that ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment,’’ he told re­porters.

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Chris­tian Porter later clar­i­fied that no changes to the cur­rent ar­range­ment, cre­ated by La­bor in 2013, are pro­posed in the re­port.

But Mr Stevens pointed out that the re­port’s find­ings had co­in­cided with a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment push for a pro­duc­tiv­ity com­mis­sion re­view into men­tal health pro­grams in Aus­tralia, conf lict­ing its mes­sage.

‘‘On the one hand, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to im­prove men­tal health out­comes, and on the other pro­poses to im­ple­ment poli­cies that will con­tinue to cre­ate men­tal health is­sues within the LGBTIQ com­mu­nity and in par­tic­u­lar younger LGBTIQ peo­ple,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘LGBTIQ peo­ple suf­fer a sig­nif­i­cantly higher rate of men­tal health is­sues, lead­ing to dra­mat­i­cally higher self-harm and sui­cide rates than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.’’

Op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten said he couldn’t be­lieve the prime min­is­ter hadn’t ruled out the ‘‘silly’’ idea com­pletely.

‘‘The fact is ev­ery child is en­ti­tled to hu­man dig­nity. We shouldn’t even be hav­ing this de­bate,’’ Mr Shorten said, de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment re­lease the re­port.

Trea­surer Josh Fry­den­berg said La­bor’s con­cerns about dis­crim­i­na­tion against chil­dren were jump­ing the gun, in­sist­ing the gov­ern­ment would ‘‘get the balance right’’ and leave ex­ist­ing laws un­touched.

The Rud­dock re­view was com­mis­sioned af­ter the 2017 na­tional same-sex mar­riage vote and handed to the gov­ern­ment sev­eral months ago, but is yet to be re­leased.

The panel re­port­edly did not ac­cept that busi­nesses should be al­lowed to refuse ser­vices on re­li­gious grounds, such as deny­ing a gay cou­ple a wed­ding cake.

The re­view also found civil cel­e­brants should not be en­ti­tled to refuse to con­duct same-sex wed­dings if they be­came cel­e­brants af­ter it was was le­galised, Fair­fax Me­dia re­ported.

THE FACT IS EV­ERY CHILD IS EN­TI­TLED TO HU­MAN DIG­NITY. WE SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HAV­ING THIS DE­BATE

— BILL SHORTEN

Not a good re­sult: Damien Stevens says the find­ings of a re­view into re­li­gious free­dom in Aus­tralia are not in the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren.

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