LGBTQ Students Discrimination Bill Won't Happen Until 2019
A push to end discrimination against LGBTQ students in private schools will be delayed until at least 2019, with the government and Labor failing to reach agreement on how to balance religious freedoms against student freedom
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is now challenging Labor to allow its MPs a conscience vote in parliament on a bill he has proposed, after the government proposed amendments that Labor claim would make discrimination worse, not better.
Morrison said he would introduce a bill of his own in parliament on Wednesday, after the Senate failed to reach agreement, which the PM claimed would balance religion and LGBTQ rights.
Labor had last week introduced the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, aimed at shutting down the ability for schools to expel or otherwise discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual or gender orientation. The issue came to light after sections of the Ruddock review into religious freedoms were leaked in October, and Morrison had committed to reform in the area by year's end.
"To address this issue I will be taking action to ensure amendments are introduced as soon as practicable to make it clear that no student of a non-state school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality," Morrison said in a statement in October.
But on Monday the government shut down debate on the bill, pushing the bill to a committee stage for review. Labor managed to bring the bill back on for debate on Wednesday, but the government proposed amendments which would still allow for schools to potentially exclude gay students.
The opposition released legal advice it had received, which claimed the government-backed amendments could lead to "draconian" punishment of LGBTQ students.
Labor therefore pulled its support for its own bill, dooming the anti-discrimination push and ensuring change would not happen until at least next year.
"I think that there is broad consensus around this chamber to remove inappropriate discrimination against kids in schools and other education institutions based on their sexual orientation and other related matters," government Senate leader Mathias Cormann said.
"But there is also a desire, so far unresolved, among many good people around Australia to see appropriate and reasonable protection remain in place for religious schools enabling them to conduct their affairs consistent with the tenets of their respective religions."
Labor's Senate leader Penny Wong, who had raged against government delay tactics earlier this week, expressed her disappointment on Wednesday.
"It is a disappointing outcome because it means LGBTIQ kids now face the prospect of returning to school next year knowing that they could be expelled or discriminated against because they are gay," she said.
Morrison said he would introduce his own bill later on Wednesday, but Labor leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said it only "further complicates issues".
"Conservatives in the Liberal Party, the Nationals and others, are all trying to introduce complicating amendments to something that really is very simple," Plibersek claimed.
"I'm worried that this will go down the same route as the marriage equality debate. Someone will be suggesting a plebiscite next."