Equal Opportunity Amendment (religious exceptions) Bill 2016: Planned contribution

Unfortunately, the Government moved this bill to the bottom of the notice paper for Thursday, meaning not all those listed to speak could make their contribution before the house adjourned. Below are the notes for my planned contribution. 

Equal Opportunity Amendment (religious exceptions) Bill 2016:

I rise to speak against the Equal Opportunity Amendment (religious exceptions) Bill 2016, because I believe it aims to weaken the current bill and is an attack on the freedom of religion and belief.

This amendment will weaken the right of religious and independent schools and religious organisations to set the culture and ethos of their organisation.

A catholic school for example, should it chose to, should have the right to only employ people with the same beliefs and principles as the organisation.

It’s reasonable to expect that a school based around the teachings of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or any other religion would want to employ people who share the same beliefs and values of the particular religion.

But under these changes, it is entirely possible that a religious school or organisation will be forced to hire someone who does not share their values or faith – because the onus of the inherent requirements test means employers have to prove it is not possible to perform the duties while possessing a relevant attribute.

These amendments could take away the rights of those organisations to set their culture and ethos a concern shared by the principals of many catholic and independent schools in my South West Coast electorate.

The existing bill does not talk to people specifically – it simply gives the organisation the right to choose employees that best fit their values and beliefs.

This does not change my view that all people – no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion – should be treated with respect, equality and tolerance. There is absolutely no question about that.

But religious schools were established in an effort to teach the beliefs of their particular religion, and they should continue to have the right to employee people that fit best with their values.

But as a parent of a child who attends a catholic secondary school, I know that my child is being taught according to the principles and beliefs of the Catholic Church and I am sure the same goes for every other family with a child in a religious or independent school.

While I may not agree with everything the church preaches, it’s a choice my husband and I made because we believe it was best for our child.

No one is forcing parents to send their children to schools that teach certain beliefs, and that’s fine, we live in a democracy, we have the right to make those choices.

My office has been inundated with emails from constituents concerned about this attack on freedom of religion, one asked would the Labor Party hire a member of the Liberal Party if they  had demonstrated that he was sufficiently qualified for the job? I would think not, but yet here they are asking religious organisations and schools to do exactly that.

This is a blatant attack on religious freedom from those opposite and I cannot support it.