Major Parties Still Split On Protections For Gay Students
The coalition government and Labor are still divided on laws to ban religious schools from discriminating against gay students, despite both parties supporting the principle.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants Labor to back the coalition's plan to protect gay students from discrimination in religious schools.
Opposition Senate leader Penny Wong's bill will come to a vote on Monday after talks with the coalition government broke down earlier in the week.
Negotiations failed after the government insisted new provisions be introduced to allow religious schools to enforce rules such as compelling gay students to attend church services.
Labor's legislation would prevent schools from excluding students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Mr Morrison said he had put two proposals to Labor to deal with the issue in a bipartisan way, but was yet to get a response.
"I am disappointed that the Labor Party has sought to politicise this issue and play political football with it," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
"I remain of the view that I would like to see this matter addressed in the same terms I set out some months ago."
Even though religious schools overwhelmingly say they don't want or need the power to discriminate against gay students, both parties have taken up the issue after it was raised in the religious freedom review conducted by former government minister Phillip Ruddock.
The prime minister said whether Labor's bill would succeed was a matter for parliament.
"Our proposals are very clear, and we would seek support for those proposals that we've put forward," he said.
Senator Wong said the new laws could be in place before Christmas if the government supported Labor's proposal.
"Nothing in this bill would compromise the ability of religious institutions to operate consistently with religious teaching, whether in the classroom or through the enforcement of school rules," she told parliament.
"This parliament has the chance to walk with the Australian people on their march towards equality instead of racing to catch up a decade later - as the parliament did with marriage equality."
Conservative government senators argued for explicit permissions for religious schools to act in accordance with their beliefs around marriage, gender identity and sexuality.
The Greens want to go further than Labor, and will try to amend the opposition's legislation to include discrimination against teachers and staff.
Senator Wong said Labor wanted to prioritise children before working on the best way to extend the law to protect staff from discrimination.