The Morrison Government’s draft Religious Freedoms bill is now available for viewing, and the ASU is seeking your feedback on the reforms proposed.
These reforms include measures that would cement the rights of religious bodies to discriminate in their employment practices, so long as they are engaging in good faith “in conduct that would be regarded as in accordance with its doctrines or beliefs.” There have been concerns raised also that provisions in this bill will serve to override protections against discrimination that exist in state law. Equality Australia, for example, have raised serious concerns about the effects this bill will have on LGBTIQ+ Australians.
It is worth noting that the definition of a “religious body” includes religious charities, whether or not they have the charitable purpose of advancing religion, provided they do not engage solely or primarily in commercial activities.
Religious lobbyists and some conservative backbenchers are currently advocating to Minister Porter to include “positive rights” for religious believers in the bill. These positive rights have been described as a “licence to discriminate”, and could send us further down the path seen in the United States, with people refused service in commercial establishments based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The ASU is aware that some members already experience tensions working in faith based organisations, such as:
– attempts to add “recruiting disciples” into position descriptions
– mandatory expectations of joining prayer activities and
– differential treatment of staff from different faith backgrounds or of no faith or diverse identities.
We are highly concerned about the potential for direct discrimination that could arise from this legislation and want to hear more from ASU members.
The ASU intends to make a submission to the Morrison government regarding this bill and the potential impact it could have for workers in Social and Community services, and we want to hear from you regarding three key questions: