Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4883 ..
Students, teachers and families across the ACT deserve the confidence that our schools and educational institutions are free from discrimination. Whether or not religious schools exercise their current right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, our laws must be amended to ensure that there is no legal opportunity for this kind of discrimination to occur.
This bill will strengthen the ACT's protections and send a message to the federal coalition government that we will not allow discrimination in ACT schools. Canberrans expect their government to stand up to discrimination in all its forms. I am proud that the ACT Labor government, along with the Greens, is doing so.
Every young person deserves to be accepted for who they are. Every teacher and staff member within our schools deserves the right to do their job without fear of discrimination. We must ensure that the ACT law protects LGBTIQ Canberrans. I am pleased that the passage of this bill will deliver the protections that are needed. I would like to thank the Chief Minister and Minister Rattenbury for introducing this legislation and, in particular, I thank the Chief Minister for his continued advocacy for the LGBTIQ+ community. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Social Inclusion and Equality, Minister for Tourism and Special Events and Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment) (5.08), in reply: I thank Ms Orr for her comments. I also thank the Leader of the Opposition for his contribution, because it is an important bill. It is one that responds to a key issue of public concern about the current scope of exceptions in our Discrimination Act, exceptions that could allow students and teachers in religious educational institutions to be subject to discrimination in relation to their sexuality or to other personal attributes.
The current exceptions in section 33 of the Discrimination Act allow religious education institutions to discriminate against students and staff on any grounds if this is done in good faith to avoid injury to religious susceptibilities of adherence to their religion or creed. This exception could allow discrimination against students or teachers on the grounds of sexuality, which obviously has been the focus of most public and media attention. But it also could allow discrimination on the grounds of gender identity—again, this is obviously controversial and has been the subject of a lot of media attention—and also on relationship status: whether or not you are married; whether or not you are pregnant; your race; and a whole range of other personal attributes.
Let us be clear: the existence of these broad-based exceptions in law should no longer be there. There should not be those exceptions anymore. That is what this legislation is about. A broad-based exception in law designed to protect people from discrimination has to be consistent with the values of equality and social inclusion that we hold dear in this territory. That is why we are moving on this issue. It is because it is unacceptable that personal attributes like whether you are pregnant, your race, your relationship status, your gender identity or your sexuality should be a reason for you to be kicked out of school or no longer able to teach in an educational institution.