Skip navigation

Question: Religious Discrimination Bill

10 February 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Premier on the topic of religious discrimination.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last night, the House of Representatives in the federal parliament passed the Religious Discrimination Bill. While an amendment was successfully passed to provide protection to students against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy or relational or marital status, the remnants of the bill remain deeply concerning.


The bill will provide religious organisations with protection from compliance with antidiscrimination laws. For instance, under the guise of a Statements of Belief, the laws could allow the following to occur: a transgender person could be told by a person providing goods or services that their gender identity is not real and is against the laws of God; a female employee could be told by a manager that a woman's place is in the home and that women should always submit to their husbands; and a student with a disability could be told by a teacher that their disability is caused by a sin and is a trial imposed by God.


My question to the minister is: what does this law mean for South Australian legislation like the Equal Opportunity Act, and does the Marshall Liberal government believe that discrimination against South Australian women, LGBTI people or people with disabilities is acceptable?


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I apologise humbly to the Hon. Mr Simms. I will urgently get some advice in relation to what the question was about, because I was anxiously reading an email. If I can get an answer back to him before the end of question time, I will give him a response.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am happy to repeat the question.


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: If you would, that would be very useful.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I will go through it very quickly. Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Religious Discrimination Bill with the support of both Labor and the Liberals. While an amendment was successfully passed to provide protection to students against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy or relational or marital status, the remnants of the bill are still very concerning.


The bill will provide religious organisations with protection from compliance with antidiscrimination laws. For instance, under the guise of a Statements of Belief, the laws will allow the following to occur: a transgender person could be told by a person providing goods or services that their gender identity is not real and is against the laws of God; a female employee could be told by a manager that a woman's place is in the home and that women should always submit to their husbands; and a student with a disability could be told by a teacher that their disability is caused by sin and that it is a trial imposed by God.


My question to the Treasurer therefore is: what does this law mean for South Australian legislation like the Equal Opportunity Act, and does the Marshall Liberal government believe that discrimination against South Australian women, people with disabilities and LGBTI people, is acceptable?


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I guess I can excuse myself for tuning out; I thought it was a question more directed to another minister or perhaps to the Attorney-General. I am not sure of the direct relevance to me. I represent, I think still, the Hon. Josh Teague in this chamber, so I am happy to seek advice. I haven't caught up with all the debates because they sat into the early hours of the morning, but I think someone reported to me that the bill might not have proceeded in the federal Senate today.


The Hon. R.A. Simms: It passed the House of Representatives.


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: It passed the House of Representatives, but I understood that it might have been delayed. I saw one media report—and I place no greater weight on it than that—that this meant that it was going to be put off until after the federal election.


The Hon. I.K. Hunter: The commonwealth have pulled the legislation.


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I am being assisted by colleagues on both sides, thank you very much; that's very useful.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Interjections are out of order—


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Yes, but they have been very useful on this occasion—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: —but unsolicited help is always very greatly received.


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —from colleagues and opponents, and that is that the legislation is not proceeding. Nevertheless, the import of the honourable member's question remains: should it pass in its current form.


My understanding is that the federal parliament has the same challenges in relation to any piece of legislation. The form that a bill arrives in the upper house doesn't necessarily reflect what the actual statute or law might be after it has endured its passage through the federal Senate, and therefore I don't think we should accept that the legislation, as it has passed one house of parliament, will necessarily be the concluded view.


Before people are too concerned as to what it will mean for various groups or individuals within the nation, but particularly within South Australia, it is probably very sensible to wait and see exactly what the federal legislation looks like eventually. At that stage, a re-elected government with an Attorney-General, or a new government with a new Attorney-General, will be able to consider it and more fulsomely respond to the honourable member's question, and I do apologise for making him repeat the question.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: rather than simply waiting for the federal parliament to potentially once again consider the bill, will the government be advocating for the rights of women, LGBTI people and people with disabilities to ensure they are protected by the federal Liberal government?


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I think, under the leadership of Premier Steven Marshall, the former Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, and the Hon. Josh Teague, who is acting in that position at the moment, South Australia is in very safe hands in terms of protecting the interests of all South Australians.


I think this government has demonstrated time and time again its willingness to provide the sorts of protections that the honourable member has at least canvassed. Ultimately, it will be a judgement call in South Australia for a re-elected government or a new government as to exactly what the federal legislation looks like or doesn't look like, and what advocacy we might take up in the interim period. Given the record of the Premier—he has often spoken out on these issues—he certainly, I am sure, is not going to be shy in expressing his view should it be asked of him.