Religious schools don't need the Religious Discrimination Bill
The draft Religious Discrimination Bill, recently released by the federal government, continues the unacceptable practice of limiting the rights of those working in faith-based schools.
Our union’s position remains that employers in faith-based schools do not need the religious exemptions currently available to them nor those proposed within the bill.
Our union believes that:
- all staff and students in schools deserve safe workplaces/learning environments; and
- staff in schools should not be discriminated against on the basis of their personal lives.
Practices in faith-based schools, and indeed in any endeavour conducted for the public by faith-based organisations, should reflect community standards and expectations.
Faith-based schools have the capacity and resilience to continue to operate in the absence of discrimination exemptions.
Our union is also disappointed by the lack of clarity of the bill, which is part of the draft package of religious freedom bills initiated in response to earlier inquiries into the protection of religious freedom under Australian law.
IEUA Federal Secretary Chris Watt expressed dismay at the continuing practice of governments to polarise and disenfranchise the rights of members who work in faith-based education.
“The proposed legislation completely exempts religious schools from allowing their employees the same rights that all other Australians enjoy; here it is not the freedom to love and marry who they wish but the freedom of religion,” Mr Watt said.
“The IEUA has and will continue to lobby governments and politicians to remove the unreasonable and harmful exemptions from discrimination law enjoyed by employers in our industry.
“As the IEUA has made abundantly clear in our recent submissions and appearances before Senate inquiries…we believe that these exemptions are not required by employers.
“Current contractual law obligations and legislation more than adequately provide for employers to manage their workforces consistent with their beliefs and tenets.
“The IEUA will call upon the Parliament of Australia to reject this current Bill as it not only fails to improve the current undermining of rights of our members but is an untidy and problematic drafting of legislation that will cause further confusion."
The government has also only allowed for four weeks of consultation relating to the bill.
Submissions on the bill close on 2 October 2019 with an intention to introduce the final draft legislation to parliament later in October for passage before Christmas.
“The IEUA will continue to carefully examine the Bill, seek expert advice and engage with stakeholders to ensure that IEUA members’ interests are paramount,” Mr Watt said.