In 2012 the Gillard Government sought to consolidate the four
existing pieces of Federal anti-discrimination legislation into a
single act with the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill
2012. The consolidated Act would replace the fragmented and
particularistic exceptions to unlawful discrimination for religious
organisations that currently exist in the Sex Discrimination
Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Age Discrimination
Act with a single, more general, although very wide,
Under clause 32 of the Bill, when connected to the internal
running of the organisation, such as 'teaching, sacramental and
liturgical roles', discrimination is permitted on the basis
marital or relationship status;
Furthermore, under clause 33 of the Bill, discrimination is not
unlawful on the basis of (d) – (h) and (j) by religious
bodies and by denominational education institutions when connected
with employment or the 'provision of education or
training'. In this instance, discrimination will not be
unlawful if the 'discrimination consists of conduct, engaged in
in good faith, and:
conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that religion;
is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of
adherents to that religion
Under the Bill, it is proposed that the exemption for religious
organisations does not extend to discrimination connected with the
provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services, also the
subject of a Greens-sponsored Senate Bill.
In 2010 the United Kingdom passed the Equality Act,
which consolidated nine pieces of anti-discrimination legislation
and approximately 100 statutory instruments. Under the UK Act,
organised religions are permitted to discriminate in relation to
the employment of ministers of religion and a small number of lay
posts as well as the provision of goods and services only on the
basis of 'religion or belief or sexual orientation'. Like
Australia's Bill, the discrimination must be shown to be
because it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the
to avoid conflict with strongly held convictions...
In Australia the consolidation process has currently been put on
hold. However, debates around the complex issue of striking an
appropriate balance between religious freedom and principles of
equality and non-discrimination will no doubt continue.
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