Contributed by Jim Hayes
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the religious discrimination bill to be presented in parliament this week will balance “freedoms and responsibilities” for people of faith. Not true. This is about legalising discrimination.
It is a move to counter existing federal and state anti-discrimination laws. This is what Scott Morrison has been talking about for years. But he has had to contend with public opposition and division within his government. Nervousness over a coming election and pressure to look decisive and united has presented an opportunity to press on.
Discrimination is a weapon used to divide the population into warring factions and prevent unity on shared interests, and this is exactly what Scott Morrison and those behind him are trying to achieve for their own gain.
The bill is expected to be voted on next week in the of Representatives and then passed onto the Senate.
Morrison says this bill will protect freedom of belief and expression. He forgets to mention that it allows discrimination against others. Despite the title, this is not really about the right to practice one’s faith but to impose onto others. some honesty over this would be a welcome change.
Generations have fought against discrimination over race, ethnicity, class, indigenous rights, gender, and disability. Some gains have been made. This has fired up the zealots, who are now working hard to turn back the clock, to secure privileges for themselves and deny them to others.
Morrison’s bill is only superficially about religion. It has far wider implications. Never mind the language used to distract from this core reality. This is a rotten bill aimed to send Australia back towards the 1880’s.
One of the places where it will have a quick impact is in education. Gay teachers and students face being locked out. Wealthy private schools can more easily exclude those considered be of inferior social status. What is taught in schools can be pushed towards teaching in accordance with Scott Morrison’s view of the world.
This step backwards, if allowed to proceed, will find expressions in media, culture, medicine, and many other places. People will be excluded from jobs because of their beliefs.
The bill provides for the overriding the anti-discrimination laws of the states.
Australia should be going in the opposite direction. Measures to prevent discrimination should be strengthened, not weakened. This involves more than having appropriate laws on the books. Effort must be applied to building a national consensus on the need to further reduce all forms of discrimination. This must penetrate every home and every workplace. Acts of discrimination must be called out and the perpetrators held to account.
Today the political leadership does not exist at the national government level. Many are hoping that Labor will act. We shall see. In any case, it is not enough to leave it all in the hands of political leaders.
It was the efforts of thousands and then millions acting together that brought about change. And it will again.
Standing against discrimination contributed to building a fairer and more inclusive future. It is not about discriminating against those of religious faith, as some allege. It is a recognition that the right to one’s needs come together with the responsibility to accept and protect the rights of others. The religious discrimination bill violates this principle.