MP to change floors on discrimination bill | the islander



The government’s controversial Religious Discrimination Bill is virtually dead after a Liberal MP said she would vote against the laws.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer said she could not support the bill in its current form and was unsure there was a way to “bridge the gap”.

Ms Archer expressed concern that the bill would override state anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT+ students.

“Tasmania has very strict anti-discrimination laws and as a Tasmanian I know these are very hard fought laws,” she told the ABC.

“We must do what we can to protect them and continue not to discriminate or allow discrimination against anyone on the basis of any attribute.”

She would likely cross the floor on the proposed laws when the debate continues on the issue this week.

Support from a group of moderate Liberal MPs hinges on the government scrapping part of the Sex Discrimination Act that allows religious schools to discriminate against pupils.

But any such change would risk the government losing the support of more Tory MPs as well as Catholic lobby groups, who have said they will withdraw their support for the bill if changes are made to the SDA.

Ms Archer said protections for LGBT students and teachers should also be enshrined in law, following concerns that religious schools could unfairly expel or fire people because of their sexuality.

MP Bass joins two other Liberal MPs who have indicated they will not support the bill without substantial amendments, saying they are amazing people debating whether students and young people should be protected against discrimination.

She said talks were ongoing between her and Prime Minister Scott Morrison about backing the bill, with one of her main concerns about the bill as it currently stands being the ” statement of belief”.

The statement of belief would allow comments that offend, humiliate or insult others as long as they express a person’s faith and are not malicious.

“It seems to me that the statement of belief provision is part and parcel of what we’re trying to change,” she said.

“That’s probably where the impasse lies from my point of view, so I don’t see how it can be solved.”

Ms Archer crossed the floor last year to support a federal anti-corruption agency.

Debate on the issue is expected to resume this week when the federal parliament returns for the 2022 sitting year.

Australian Associated Press

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