Tasmania stands to lose the most under the Australian Government’s proposed religious discrimination bill, activists say.
A group of Tasmanian organisations have formally asked two inquiries into the federal bill to focus on their state.
If passed, the religious discrimination bill would override and weaken sections of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which has been described as “gold-standard”.
The advocacy groups say that the bill threatens Tasmania’s existing protections for students and staff of religious schools and other organisations against discrimination and demeaning conduct, as well as the capacity of the state to pass effective laws against conversion practices.
They have asked both inquiries to conduct hearings in Hobart or that focus on the specific impact of the bill on Tasmania.
“Tasmania has more to lose than any other state or territory because our anti-discrimination laws are the best,” said Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome.
“The federal religious discrimination bill directly and explicitly targets Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act and will have a disastrous impact on protections that have been in place for over two decades.
“Unfortunately, there is much misunderstanding and misinformation about our Anti-Discrimination Act interstate, so it is critical that both inquiries hold special hearings to hear from all of the different Tasmanian groups affected.”
As well as Equality Tasmania, Disability Voices Tasmania, Women’s Health Tasmania, Unions Tasmania, and the Independent Education Union (Tas) have written to the inquiries with their concerns.
Croome welcomed submissions to both inquiries from the Tasmanian Liberal Government, which has said it will “continue to strongly advocate for no weakening of our anti-discrimination laws”.
The submissions follow Premier Peter Gutwein’s statement last year that he opposes any weakening of the state’s existing discrimination protections.
“We thank the Tasmanian Government for opposing the federal overrides of our gold-standard Anti-Discrimination Act and call on it to consider a High Court challenge should the overrides become law,” said Croome.
The Joint Human Rights Committee and Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee hearings will be conducted over the next two weeks.