The Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022 (ACT) released today is a missed opportunity to modernise the Territory’s outdated discrimination law and embed best practices according to Christian schools.
‘The ACT Government claimed it wanted to “modernise discrimination law to support best practice”’, said Mark Spencer, Director of Public Policy at Christian Schools Australia, ‘yet after an 18 month process all we have is a grab bag of amendments, many of which seem to have little justification’.
‘The secretive process followed in the reform process may not have helped, so we are publicly releasing our submission to let the community of Canberra see the positive proposals we put forward’.
The submission from Christian Schools Australia included draft amendments reflecting the recommendations from the Expert Panel on Religious Freedom to ensure best practice was implemented in the Discrimination Act, along with an updated definition of discrimination based on UN Human Rights Committee recommendations.
‘Fundamental human rights, including religious freedom, must be protected in accordance with Australia’s international obligations’, Mr Spencer said, ‘our proposals would have addressed the yawning gap in Territory protections, to implement the requirements of Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’.
‘Lessons from the extensive consultation on the Commonwealth’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill were also included in our submission, as we aimed to ensure that the Territory’s legislation would be updated to be clear, simple and user-friendly’.
‘Instead of modernising the Act as it applies to religious bodies, the draft bill seems to create unnecessary and unjustified complexity for churches and schools’, he said, ‘there is no evidence of any problems with employment within religious bodies, yet the Bill opens the door to the Courts and Tribunals determining when a church, mosque or temple can employ a person who shares their beliefs.’
‘The Government has no business deciding matters of faith, and when they should apply within religious bodies’, Mr Spencer said, ‘the same clear exemption that applies to employment of political workers should apply to religious workers’.
‘We are calling on the ACT Government to go back to the drawing board, re-consider our proposals, and take the opportunity to truly modernise the Territory’s discrimination laws’.
Download Media Release
Download CSA Submission