Religious Discrimination Bill remains deeply flawed and should be rejected

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has called for the second exposure draft of the Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill to be rejected in its current form.

In its submission, published today and endorsed by Community Legal Centres NSW, PIAC has outlined how the latest version of the Bill will negatively impact on the enjoyment of rights across the community, and creates more problems than it solves.

‘This Bill is deeply flawed. It is radical, unnecessarily complex and unworkable in practice. It is likely to permit more discrimination than it prevents and create divisions in society, rather than promoting tolerance,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

‘Despite some changes from the First Exposure Draft to the Second, major problems remain – and indeed some problems have been made worse. We therefore urge the Government not to proceed with this Bill.’

PIAC’s submission raises an important issue that has been overlooked in debate surrounding this Bill: namely, the right not to disclose one’s religious beliefs.

‘When engaged in public life, such as seeking access to social services, being required to answer the question “what is your religion?” would be seen by many as unnecessary, inappropriate and an invasion of privacy,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

‘This Bill makes it a question that can be asked in a very broad range of circumstances, unrelated to religious observance or inherently religious activity. A homeless person seeking food at a soup kitchen, a young person seeking support at a drop-in centre, a parent seeking care for their infant child, someone seeking aged-care services in their home: this Bill not only allows them to be asked “what is your religion?”, but makes the answer one that can determine their access to services or employment.

‘This is wrong in principle and inconsistent with community standards. It will serve to create and highlight division in our community’, said Mr Hunyor.

Specific problems addressed in PIAC’s submission include:

· Clause 42, permitting a wide range of otherwise discriminatory

/Public Release.