PM bans gay faith schools ban

The West Australian - - NEWS - Phoebe Wearne Can­berra

Re­li­gious schools will be stripped of the right to ex­pel stu­dents on the ba­sis of their sex­u­al­ity un­der sig­nif­i­cant re­forms to be an­nounced by Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son to­day.

Mr Mor­ri­son has asked At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Chris­tian Porter to pre­pare amend­ments to Fed­eral anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws, in a bid to quell “un­nec­es­sary con­fu­sion and anx­i­ety” over the leaked Rud­dock re­port on re­li­gious free­doms.

The leg­is­la­tion to re­peal ex­emp­tions that cur­rently al­low pri­vate schools to dis­crim­i­nate against gay stu­dents on re­li­gious grounds is ex­pected to pass Par­lia­ment with La­bor’s back­ing, af­ter Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten wrote to the PM last night to of­fer bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

“Our Govern­ment does not sup­port ex­pul­sion of stu­dents from re­li­gious non-State schools on the ba­sis of their sex­u­al­ity,” Mr Mor­ri­son said. “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.”

Un­der ex­ist­ing law, faith­based schools are able to fire teach­ers and ex­pel stu­dents on the ba­sis of sex­u­al­ity or gen­der iden­tity in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

Sim­i­lar ex­emp­tions ex­ist in WA’s Equal­ity Op­por­tu­nity Act, but The Week­end West un­der­stands they would likely be over­rid­den by the amend­ments pro­posed by Mr Mor­ri­son.

The Govern­ment has been sit­ting on the Rud­dock re­view, which was set up in the wake of last year’s vote on same-sex mar­riage, since May.

But re­ports that emerged on Wed­nes­day — less than a fort­night be­fore vot­ers head back to the polls in Mal­colm Turn­bull’s for­mer in­ner-Syd­ney seat of Went­worth — in­cor­rectly sug­gested that the re­view called for it to be made eas­ier for faith­based schools to turn away gay stu­dents and teach­ers.

The re­port rather pro­poses that the ex­emp­tions af­forded to re­li­gious schools be re­tained, and re­stricted to those schools that have a pub­licly avail­able pol­icy and pri­ori­tise the child’s “best in­ter­ests”.

Mr Mor­ri­son’s re­sponse goes even fur­ther, re­mov­ing the ex­emp­tion that re­lates to stu­dents in or­der to “give all stu­dents and par­ents the cer­tainty they re­quire”.

He be­lieved the Govern­ment’s view was “widely shared” by re­li­gious schools, the wider com­mu­nity and across Par­lia­ment, with the leg­is­la­tion likely to be in­tro­duced dur­ing the two-week ses­sion that be­gins on Mon­day.

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