Australian Government Wants to Make Discrimination Legal June 5, 2011

Australian Government Wants to Make Discrimination Legal

I don’t know the ins and outs of the Australian government, so this article was a bit confusing to an American like me, but reader Andrew was nice enough to explain a new bill passed by the country’s Parliament:

In Australia we have very good anti-discrimination laws which prevent establishments from discriminating against people for any number of reasons…

However, in the state of Victoria, faith based groups have been pushing for an exemption to these laws, as they feel that they should have the right to discriminate against people on the basis of religion, marital status and gender.

Last week there was a vote in our Lower House of Parliament, and the amendment was defeated.

However, the majority party [took] an unprecedented step and actually reintroduced the vote… because one of the members was missing for the vote, and subsequently it was passed.

So Australian lawmakers just overturned an anti-discrimination law. The Upper House will now have to vote on it, too, and it looks like the Victorian Government has the numbers to keep the law overturned.

If this new law passes, it would mean Christian groups (receiving, I presume, federal money from the state of Victoria) could now say they’re not going to hire someone who’s gay… or unmarried… or female… or a Jew… or black…

One person very happy with the new rules had this remarkable spin on it:

“When Christian organisations employ people, they look for those who will share the journey together,” says Rob Ward, State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Ward cites the example of his own son who goes to a Christian school, and who has struck up a friendship with the school gardener, also a Christian. “Children often shy away from authority figures, but my son receives good pastoral care from this gentleman.”

And when non-Christian organizations employ people, they do it on the basis of who might be a good fit for the job, not based on the person’s gender, race, or sexual orientation…

Andrew adds in his email:

I know that there are a lot of struggles in the United States for things that we take for granted; however, it’s disheartening that we’re actually regressing here in Australia and we have essentially legalized bigotry in one of our states.

I’ll throw it to the Australian readers:

Am I summarizing this story correctly?

Can this pro-discrimination law be stopped?

What else should we all know about this legislation?

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  • Nathalie

    Oh dear… This makes me cringe.

  • CanadianNihilist

    What a great law, now someone can flat out refuse to hire religious people and get away with it. How refreshing would it be to work in a place without jesus freaks always trying to convert you.

    Shame about all the other discrimination that will come with this though.

  • We have this in America, too. It’s called the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and its participants are free to discriminate on the same bases.

  • In the US, Churches can require that employees be members of their religion, can’t they?

  • Shells

    Any group of people has the right to choose who they want to associate with and who they don’t. Normally, I oppose anti-discrimination laws, because I think bigots and racists should have the right to be bigots and racists. The one exception I take is when a group is receiving government money. I can’t fathom why any government would give any private group, especially a religious group, funding. But if you’re going to, that group doesn’t get to discriminate against any taxpayer, period.

  • Phil314

    What a load! I really hope that Stephen Harper doesn’t get any funny ideas like this.

  • Hajdownunder

    Firstly, small comfort though it is, this is a law passed by the Victorian State Government, not the Federal Government.

    More disconcerting is the trend towards this sort of thing in Australian Politics. Our Prime Minister, an Atheist, is allowing the opposition lead by a Catholic who dropped out of seminary, to drive debate in this country. The decision to send refugee children from Australia to Malaysia (a non signatory to the UNCHR) by the Government just shows how far to the right wing the Labor party have now stumbled.

    We now have Conservatives in power in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, so don’t be surprised if we see more discriminatory laws from down under.

  • Justin

    I’m a Victorian and when I read this I almost puked. This attitude of “religious groups should be free to discrimiate because of their beliefs” is becoming a little too common.

    The Aus Xtian Lobby is too reminding us of their penchant for bigotry. In Queensland last week it was the bus shelter ads about safe sex, this week in Victoria their happiness over new rules to allow open bigotry. I wonder what next week will bring for this country most visible hate-group.

    Yes, I think they are a hate-group. Not a radical hate group, but a hate group none the less.

  • Tracy

    I really hope somebody is keeping an eye on the relationship between the gardner and the student. Oh, wait…was that a predjucial and discriminatory comment? I wonder if the church would approve of my implication.

  • Steve

    That’s what I thought too

  • As always, theists claim persecution when anyone dares disagree with them on anything. Ironically, they are the group that persecutes others the most. In this case, they are demanding, and getting, legal recognition of their right to do so.

    Hypocrite = theist. Semantically equal.

  • Peter

    Discrimination is legal in Australia’s most populous state New South Wales.

    NSW Anti-Discrimination Act allows businesses owned by religious groups to discriminate against students, employees and clients if they hold that something about them conflicts with their beliefs.

    Just read the job adds requirements from religious groups…

  • Ali-cat

    Not only has the Victorian State Government actually passed pro-discrimination legislation, they broke a 105 year old parliamentary rule to do it! They lost the vote the first time around, so they rammed it through a second time, once they’d organised to have a slim majority of people present. Unfortunately, another conservative government (of the same political party) has just been elected here in New South Wales and they’ve already started passing retrospective legislation. We’re in for a bumpy few years.

  • ff42

    What Shells said.

  • Jonathan

    The crazy right wing government has been in power less than a year in my state of Victoria and is already totally fucking it up.

    Along with this bill they also recently passed a bill making it legal for the police to issue on the spot $240 ($260 US) fines for swearing.

    It passed with bipartisan support too because Labor, the “centre-left” party here has become a complete joke.

  • Well done, Victoria, well done.

  • Ben

    Just to confirm, this has nothing to do with the (left wing) Labor Federal government. It is a policy of the conservative Liberal State government in Victoria.

    And unfortunately, as other people have mentioned, this is only one more horrible policy introduced by the Liberals in Victoria and isn’t really anything out of the ordinary any more.

  • Pseudonym

    The previous law, which this amends was extremely carefully written, and was enacted with the full support of most anti-discrimination groups and the largest religious bodies, including the Catholic Church.

    The name “Australian Christian Lobby” sounds serious, but in fact it’s something of a national joke. The group is not endorsed by any major Christian denomination, but is run and supported almost entirely by Pentecostals.

    I will never understand why these groups have so much influence over Australian conservative politicians, considering that they are so few in number. They must be able to raise a huge amount of money in political donations, or influence a small minority of voters in marginal electorates to vote around a single tangential issue. Most likely, it’s that Family First preferences mean a lot to them.

  • meridian

    Non-Australians should perhaps get a little bit of background to this law change.

    Religious organisations (including schools) in Victoria can already discriminate in employment on the grounds of religious belief or activity, sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status and gender identity if the action conforms with the religion’s doctrines, beliefs or principles or is reasonably necessary to avoid injuring the religious sensitivities of the religion’s adherents.

    However, there is currently an “inherent requirements test” that requires a religious body to show that conforming with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion is an inherent requirement of the job and that the person discriminated against does not meet the inherent requirement because of a relevant attribute. So, say, a maths teacher cannot be discriminated against at the moment (but a science teacher, perhaps, can).

    The amendment is to remove this inherent requirements test, so religious organisations no longer have to show that conforming is an inherent requirement of the job. All employment will now be covered by the “general religious exception” of the Equal Opportunity Act 1995/2010 that allows religious organisations to discriminate against single parents, gay/lesbians, women, and basically anyone that is not part of their own religion.

    In plain English: They used to be able to discriminate, but only if religiousity was part of the job. The law they intend to pass is so religious organisations can discriminate at all times.

    This is from the Hansard reading of the bill, discussing the law prior to the change:
    “The 2010 act continues that exemption test for most activities of faith-based organisations, but in relation to the employment of staff, it imposes an additional requirement that conformity with the organisation’s beliefs or principles must be an ‘inherent requirement’ of the position.

    According to many experts, this means that while a religious school, for example, may be able to recruit religious education staff who support the school’s beliefs, the school would not be allowed to take support for the school’s beliefs into account in recruiting any other staff.

    This restriction on the freedom of faith-based organisations under the 2010 act is in stark contrast to the position for political organisations. The 2010 act imposes no such ‘inherent requirement’ test on political organisations. Political parties will continue to be free, as they should be, to take political beliefs into account in recruiting staff.”

    “Restriction on the freedom” of faith-based organisations to discriminate. Jesus wept.

  • The Opposition Leader in Victoria, Labor’s Daniel Andrews, speaks directly to this issue

  • bullet

    ” but my son receives good pastoral care from this gentleman.”

    Someone explain to Rob Ward that his child is probably being molested.

  • realist

    Are all you fool’s trying to tell me that the catholic faith are the only ones doing this? Open your eyes people. I’d bet a pound to a pinch if shit that this is happening in all religious and other interest groups. It’s just that now its become official and because its the Catholic religion it makes the news.
    It has aways been the way in this country to bash the majority and pander to the minority.

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