‘No weakening’: Liberal state governments express concern over federal religious discrimination bill | Religion


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The Liberal governments of New South Wales and Tasmania have expressed concern that the federal religious discrimination bill trumps their anti-discrimination laws.

The core provisions of the Morrison government’s bill, including those protecting the beliefs and hiring practices of religious institutions, would trump state laws, potentially rendering the claims unworkable, they submitted. to a parliamentary inquiry.

The coalition is struggling to gain support for the bill, with a trio of moderate Liberal MPs reserving the right to vote against and a deal between the attorney general and another group of disgruntled MPs crumbling after a religious backlash.

The bill is being examined by two parliamentary inquiries, including the Joint Human Rights Commission.

Tasmanian Attorney General Elise Archer submitted that the federal bill appeared to “effectively invalidate the operation of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination law”, including the provision prohibiting speech that offends, insults or humiliates a person on the basis of the law. base of a protected attribute.

Archer argued that a person need only claim that their statement was a protected belief statement and that the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal “must decline to hear the case” unless the request is specious. .

Although the person who made the statement was not required to prove that it was a statement of conviction, the complainant would be required to prove that he or she breached the guarantees in the bill that de such statements should not be malicious, intimidating or harassing, she said.

“I would like to reiterate that the view of the Government of Tasmania is [the package] would reduce the ability of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to deal with certain complaints and… we continue to advocate strongly not to weaken our anti-discrimination laws. “

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has openly questioned the need for the federal bill.

Anti-Discrimination NSW, the state government body that administers the discrimination law, said it “remains concerned” that the bill does not strike the right balance between freedom of religion and other rights.

He warned that the Religious Discrimination Bill would override provisions in state law “which limit the circumstances in which denominational schools can discriminate against job applicants and existing employees.”

The conviction statement and the hiring clauses “would also create significant procedural and access to justice problems,” he said, as the NSW Civil and Administrative Court may not be competent to consider state claims when federal law is raised as a defense.

Referral of the case to federal court would add “procedural and financial burdens to complainants and create a barrier to access to justice.”

Constitutional law professor Anne Twomey argued that the federal government had attempted a “provocative” takeover of state law, but the drafting was “conceptually confused and probably invalid.”

Both sections “seek to control the functioning of state law,” she argued, rather than simply creating incompatibility with state law.

“How can a Commonwealth law dictate the interpretation of what constitutes discrimination under a state law?”

“He can’t do it. He cannot amend or alter state law or instruct a court on how to interpret state law.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has praised the bill, saying it “does not go far enough” to ensure the protection of religious freedom. The conference accused state governments, including Victoria, of seeking to restrict the hiring and firing powers of religious institutions.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has said it “strongly supports the introduction of enforceable protections against religious discrimination for all people in Australia”.

But while endorsing these elements of the bill, he warned that other articles “would offer protection to religious belief or activity to the detriment of other rights.”

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These were “unnecessary and disproportionate, or are otherwise incompatible with international human rights law” and should be deleted, he said.

In addition to the statement of belief clause, the AHRC complained that the bill “provides very broad exemptions that allow ‘religious bodies’ to engage in religious discrimination” and allows companies to file a complaint of religious discrimination.

“This is a significant departure from national and international human rights laws which only protect the rights of individuals, ie humans. “

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