We, the undersigned, represent a range of researchers, community service organisations and advocacy groups that support communities throughout South Australia. We are united in our concerns about the draft Religious Discrimination Bill and its potential to cause harm to the communities we serve.
We respect the diversity of Australia and celebrate the multitude of beliefs, identities and cultures that co-exist within our society. We likewise celebrate the various faiths throughout Australia and value the ability for such diverse communities to exist peacefully with one another.
While we respect the Government’s intent to craft a Religious Discrimination Bill that will protect religious Australians from being discriminated against, we are deeply concerned that the current Bill goes too far. Anti-discrimination legislation should protect people from being discriminated against, but this Bill will allow religious Australians, and religious organisations, to discriminate against people who are different from them.
All Australians should be protected equally by the law, regardless of who they are or what they believe. It is for this reason that we call on the Government to reconsider this Bill to ensure that any legislation that is passed protects all of us from discrimination rather than handing some Australians a license to discriminate against others.
For the sake of Australia’s harmonious diversity, we ask all Federal politicians to stand with us in finding a better way forward.
- Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch)
- Child and Family Focus SA
- COTA SA
- Justice for Refugees SA
- Public Law and Policy Research Unit
- SA Lived Experience Leadership & Advocacy Network (LELAN)
- SA Unions
- SHINE SA
- SOS Copper Coast Suicide Prevention Network
- South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS)
- South Australian Network of Drug & Alcohol Services (SANDAS)
- South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA)
- St John’s Youth Services
- Youth Affairs Council of South Australia (YACSA)
Matthew Morris, Chair of South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance, said:
"SARAA believes in an Australia free from discrimination, but the Religious Discrimination Bill won't accomplish this. The law should protect people from discrimination, not give a right to discriminate.
"LGBTIQ South Australians have been clear that they don't support the current Bill and SARAA is pleased to see so many other organisations taking a stand against it, too. We know this Bill will harm many sections of Australian society and we hope the government will listen to our concerns to find a better way forward."
Co-Founder, Rights Resource Network SA and Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of South Australia, Dr Sarah Moulds, said:
“Fourteen community organisations and research groups have come together through the Rights Resource Network SA to raise their voice about the impact of the draft Religious Discrimination Bill on the lives of South Australians.
"We have our own system of equal opportunity laws in this state that businesses, community organisations and individuals comply with and rely upon. They are not perfect, but they don’t deserve to be overridden by proposed federal laws that will elevate the rights of some over the rights of others.
"Rather than go ahead with this legally complex and divisive proposal, these thirteen diverse organisations urge the Federal Government start again when it comes to designing legal protections against religious discrimination.
"We urge South Australian federal and state Members of Parliament to listen to the concerns of their constituents when it comes to responding to this draft Bill.”
Ross Womersley, CEO of the SA Council of Social Service, said:
“There are already a range of existing federal and state laws specifically designed to eliminate discrimination – particularly when it comes to employment. This legislation will create enormous uncertainty about the operation of these laws and will also introduce a considerable compliance burden for all businesses including community sector organisations.
"SACOSS believes it would be preferable to address any concerns about securing “religious freedoms” using the same framework established in existing discrimination laws. If not, then one of the best ways we to protect crucial human rights and freedoms would be through the development of a national Bill/Charter of Rights.
"It is absolutely imperative this proposed Bill is either voted down or properly amended to ensure key issues are addressed so that harmonious and co-operative Australian workplaces are not compromised and that all Australians have their rights enabled.”
Secretary at SA Unions, Angas Story, said:
"The Religious Discrimination Bill does nothing to improve protections against discrimination on the grounds of religion. In fact, it makes the situation worse for tens of thousands of South Australian workers in religious aged care facilities, hospitals, accommodation providers, educational bodies, and charitable institutions.
"Not only are those workers expressly excluded from the Bill’s protection, but discrimination against them based on their personal religious belief or activity is specifically permitted and encouraged by the Bill.
"In addition, all workers in the public sector are completely excluded from protections.
"The Bill will create a risk of increased confusion, conflict, uncertainty and harm in Australian workplaces and should not be passed in its current form."