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Question: Religious Exemptions

16 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of religious exemptions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In 2020, the former Liberal government held a public consultation on draft legislation via YourSAy on proposed changes to the Equal Opportunity Act. The aim was to create a better balance between equality and religious freedoms for organisations that provide services.

The draft legislation was to remove the provisions for religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sex or LGBTI identity when providing preschool, primary or secondary education, health services, aged care, disability support services, foster care placement, emergency accommodation and public housing. The consultation summary has been removed from the YourSAy website.

My question to the Attorney-General is: what is the progress of these reforms to the Equal Opportunity Act to remove religious exemptions to equal opportunity laws, and what is the expected time frame for this reform?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It's not an area that I am aware of where it's up to in terms of what the previous government had put forward or where it was up to in terms of the public consultation process and whatever followed on from that.

The Labor Party certainly doesn't have a policy in relation to the matters that the honourable member has raised, but as always I am happy to talk further to the honourable member about this or any other thoughts he has, but I am happy to take it on notice to see if there is—it's not something I have a briefing on or have any information in relation to.


Reply received 7 February 2023:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I have been advised:

The draft Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 was an initiative of the former government. It was not introduced to parliament.

I have had representations from a number of stakeholders regarding possible amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act1984. I am considering these proposals, as well as recent reforms in Victoria, and recently proposed or recommended reforms in Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.