25 Oct 2018

    Laws To Stop Discrimination Against LGBTI Students Have Been Delayed

    Strawberry "food terrorism" legislation passed in a day, but the government needs more time on this one.

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    Sean Davey / AFP / Getty Images

    Laws to stop religious schools from being able to kick out LGBTI students on the grounds of their sexuality and gender identity have been delayed after the Australian government announced it needs more time.

    Attorney-general Christian Porter provided Labor with draft legislation on Wednesday night in an attempt to secure bipartisan support for the new laws, but could not meet a self-imposed deadline to pass it in parliament this week, blaming Labor for failing to agree to the legislation.

    "The Labor party has not finalised its position and requires more time to consider the latest draft and, in reflecting the cooperative approach so far to this issue, we will not introduce a bill until Labor has had further time to consider the drafting with a view to coming to a bipartisan position," he said in a statement.

    "To that end, the government will continue to consult with the opposition with a view to having an agreed bill that can be introduced in the final sitting fortnight of the year."

    In the lead-up to the Wentworth by-election prime minister Scott Morrison said the government would "use the next sitting fortnight" (meaning the past two weeks) to "ensure the matter is addressed".

    A senior Labor source told BuzzFeed News that the government had "stuffed up" the legislation.

    "The legislation presented to Labor late yesterday includes provisions that go beyond what the government promised," the source said.

    Porter said Labor had been provided a first draft of the proposed legislation last week, and a revised draft yesterday.

    BuzzFeed News has been told that the bill didn't repeal exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act that allow discrimination against students on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. It had a clause to allow schools to maintain their "ethos", which Labor believes would still allow students to be discriminated against.

    Porter confirmed in a Perth radio interview that the legislation was aimed at allowing religious schools to "keep order and rules" while still removing discrimination from legislation.

    Labor also wants the exemptions repealed that allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI teachers and staff, but hasn't made clear whether it would seek that in the legislation the government is looking to pass before the end of the year.

    Greens LGBTI spokesperson senator Janet Rice said Morrison was seeking to avoid a potentially explosive partyroom meeting on the matter.

    "Scott Morrison himself said last week that removing discrimination in schools is 'such a simple amendment' that 'we should use the next fortnight to ensure this matter is addressed'," she said in a statement.

    "The only complexity now is because of the internal politics of the Liberal party and the hard right that control the Liberal party room."

    The ACT government announced yesterday that it would introduce legislation next week to close loopholes that would stop schools in the territory from discriminating based on sexuality, gender identity, race, pregnancy or intersex characteristics.

    Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Josh Taylor at josh.taylor@buzzfeed.com.

    Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

    Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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