Modern Australian

Political impasse stops protection for LGBT students passing this year

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The government’s bid to legislate this year to protect LGBT students from discrimination at religious schools has failed because of an impasse over the detail.

After weeks of negotiation and tactical manoeuvring between the government and Labor, Scott Morrison on Wednesday produced his own bill and suggested both sides give their parliamentarians a conscience vote.

“It’s disappointing that we have been unable to reach agreement between the parties, but I’m prepared to give it one more go,” he said.

But this was immediately and strongly rejected by Labor.

Neither government nor opposition on Wednesday night saw any chance of further movement before parliament rises on Thursday.

It is not clear how the matter will proceed next year, or whether it will be rolled into the government’s reaction to the religious freedom report, to be released soon.

The existing right to discriminate – which has been in the law since 2013 – became an issue after a leak from the Ruddock religious freedom report before the Wentworth byelection.

Read more: Ruddock report constrains, not expands, federal religious exemptions

Morrison responded with a promise to legislate quickly to remove the provision.

But negotiations with Labor bogged down when the government insisted protections should be included in the new legislation to ensure the right of religious schools to teach their faith and to impose school rules which reflect that faith. One example the government gives is a school’s right to require pupils to attend chapel.

Labor said that schools would still be able to exclude students on these provisions.

The opposition moved its own bill in the Senate, which simply removed the existing exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.

On Tuesday Bill Shorten said in a letter to Morrison that parliament should not rise until the matter was resolved so students “can go into the school holidays knowing that when they return to school next year, there will be no basis for their ongoing discrimination”.

But on Wednesday morning the Labor bill was put on hold by agreement between government and opposition, because a mutually-acceptable outcome could not be reached.

Soon after, Morrison called a news conference, producing a bill and proposing an alternative route to deal with it. The bill

… removed the ability to discriminate against students based on gender or sexual orientation, relationship status or pregnancy;

… said that in deciding whether a school rule was “reasonable”, the Human Rights Commission and courts should take into account the school’s religious nature and whether the school considered the best interests of the child;

… provided that nothing in the Act prevented a religious school teaching in accordance with its religious beliefs.

“If the Labor Party and Bill Shorten are prepared to back this Bill, we will vote for it today and we will get this done”, Morrison said.

As a fallback he proposed both sides give their members a conscience vote, saying that in those circumstances he would introduce the bill as a private member.

Shorten immediately accused Morrison of seeking to “weaponise this dispute”.

He said Labor’s legal advice was that the government’s proposed change “has the potential to permit discrimination against students in schools both direct and indirect.”

Read more: View from The Hill: Discrimination debate will distress many gay school students

Shorten said he understood religious schools had “legitimate anxieties”, which Labor respected. He also understood that “there is an overwhelming desire to remove discrimination against children”.

“The Parliament hasn’t come across a mechanism which seems to get that balance right,” Shorten said.

“There is no set of circumstances where this Parliament should be voting to replace one set of laws permitting discrimination against children with another set of laws permitting discrimination against children.”

In a mutual blame game, Attorney-General Christian Porter said: “Labor is not prepared to accept the common sense principle that religious schools should be able to impose reasonable school rules evenly on all of their students.

"And worst of all Bill Shorten will not agree to the common sense process of allowing a conscience vote of all members to allow these common sense changes to happen right now.”

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Read more http://theconversation.com/political-impasse-stops-protection-for-lgbt-students-passing-this-year-108272

NEWS

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the family law inquiry

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan discusses Scott Morrison’s new family law inquiry with Michelle Grattan. They also speak of the developments in the Tamil family from Biloela’s case...

why don't we have electric aircraft?

CC BY-NDClimate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.If you have a question you’d like...

how ancient virtues can guide our responses to the climate crisis

What would Socrates say about coal mining? Or recycling? www.shutterstock.comAs world chiefs and youth leaders gather in New York at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, many of us...

A shot of hope in the face of climate despair

Sunrise at Beachmere, Queensland.Mark Wasser/FlickrHope, like a slinky, springs eternal. While rage, fear and disgust are all appropriate responses to the realities of climate change (which we have explored extensively...

It's safest to avoid e-cigarettes altogether – unless vaping is helping you quit smoking

The recent vaping-related deaths in the US have brought the issue into the spotlight around the world.From shutterstock.comHealth authorities in the United States are investigating 530 cases of lung illness...

What is the charge of concealment of birth and why is it still happening in Australia?

There has been a long history of women being charged with, and prosecuted for, concealment of birth both within WA and the rest of Australia.ShutterstockIn August, a 24-year-old woman appeared...

We want to learn about climate change from weather presenters, not politicians

Melbourne's ABC weather presenter Paul Higgins discussing a trend towards warmer April days.ABC/MCCCRHOne of the great paradoxes of climate change communication in Australia is that politicians command the most attention...

Ignoring young people's climate change fears is a recipe for anxiety

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.Thousands of school students across Australia are...

Another stolen generation looms unless Indigenous women fleeing violence can find safe housing

In Western Australia more than half the children placed in state care are Aboriginal. The state government committed this month to reducing this over-representation, in a move that parallels the...

on the ending of a friendship

ShutterstockFriendship is an incomparable, immeasurable boon to me, and a source of life — not metaphorically but literally. -Simone WeilAbout eight years ago, I went to dinner with a...

putting government money where policy needs to go

Governments can choose to spend money in ways that support climate change policy, including a shift to electric vehicle fleets.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDThis story is part of Covering Climate Now...

Why do men have nipples?

Men have nipples because of a quirk in how embryos develop. But that's only part of the story of this seemingly redundant body part.from www.shutterstock.comWomen’s nipples have long been a...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Strictly For Women:5 Steps To Top 5 Designer Sunglasses That Celebrities Are WearingBest Paradise Islands You Should Visit in AustraliaMost Popular Mexican Destinations for Australian Visitors How to know the universe is guiding you Cancer 101: 6 Dietary Habits Increasing Cancer RiskQuick turnaround in a rental property at Bondi demands frequent rubbish removal4 Basic Decor Principles That Never Go Out Of StyleEvery Day Should Be Mother’s DayGuys, Are You Making These 5 Critical Skincare Mistakes?What To Check For In Supplements And Slimming Aids?Engineered Wood Flooring vs. Laminate Wood Flooring How Panel Beating Can Quickly Repair Your Car’s Hail DamageBenefits of filtered waterCleaning tips for the kitchen