Liberty Victoria is opposed to discrimination on the basis of the attributes of religious belief and religious activity, just as on the basis of the other attributes protected under our laws, including the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) (EOA). The Commonwealth Parliament would do well to follow the example of State and Territory laws in this field.
However, the form of this Bill marks a significant departure from the model adopted by state anti-discrimination legislation. It prioritises one particular type of attribute (religious belief and religious activity) over others. It unbalances the important safeguards that protect people against discrimination and poses a real risk to several minority groups in Australia.
(1) We support laws to protect people from discrimination on the basis of religion and/or religious belief (or the absence of such a belief);
(2) We strongly oppose elevating the rights of people with religious beliefs above the rights of other Australians by exempting ‘statements of belief’ from existing anti-discrimination laws. In a civilised and human rights respecting society, there is no basis for undermining Commonwealth, state and territory discrimination laws, thus exempting discrimination, because it has a religious underpinning; and
(3) We oppose the way in which these laws make it easier for vital services, including health services and those providing housing, to discriminate against people.
The Bill should not be passed in its current form.