Attorney-General Christian Porter has rejected concerns expressed by employers and unions of the Morrison Government’s updated religious discrimination bill, accusing them of misstating the legislation’s effects. Source: The Australian.
By Ewin Hannan, The Australian
Employers and unions have jointly demanded changes to the bill, warning the proposed laws risk limiting the ability of companies to protect workers from bullying and harassment at work.
In a letter to Mr Porter, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox and ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien said the bill would damage workplace harmony, reduce tolerance for religious diversity and, “most concerningly”, risk harm to staff and customers.
While supporting protections for people against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or activity, Mr Willox and Mr O’Brien said they were troubled the bill was a major departure from the approach taken in other anti-discrimination laws.
“It applies onerous limitations in some workplaces, while conferring extensive positive rights to discriminate on religious grounds in others,” they said.
“This approach is confusing, inappropriate and unfair.”
The duo called for the removal of the bill’s “statement of belief” provisions, which they said prevented employers from setting standards of conduct limiting an employee’s ability to make “intimidatory or offensive” statements about religion.
Under the bill, a person’s right to make a “statement of belief” explicitly overrides all federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws. The Ai Group and the ACTU said they were concerned the provisions were inconsistent with employer obligations under existing workplace, work health and safety and anti-discrimination laws.
Mr Porter said the bill did not confer a positive right to discriminate. It imposed limitations on business “because … it will make it unlawful to treat others adversely on the basis of their religion”.
He said the letter suggested a statement of belief allowed someone to intimidate or bully someone else and suggests it might permit sexual harassment.