If there was ever an institution where discrimination should be known only in the history books, it’s Australia’s school system.
We would hope secular schools would never ban Christian teachers or students from their campuses. We would expect that heterosexual students and teachers would also be welcomed in every school in the nation. And we certainly would extend those same hopes to gay students and teachers…as well as those with different or no religious beliefs.
Sensing the potential bombshell of the current discrimination debate, Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma moved to distance himself from any potential push to make it easier for taxpayer funded religious schools to discriminate against gay students and teachers.
Fairfax Media has reported the long-awaited Ruddock report into religious freedoms recommends the right to discriminate be enshrined in the federal Sex Discrimination Act to ensure a consistent national approach.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wouldn’t give his view on the topic when campaigning in Wentworth alongside Mr Sharma on Wednesday but the candidate himself stuck his neck out.
‘On a personal level, I would be opposed to any new measures that impose forms of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation or anything else for that matter,’ Mr Sharma told reporters.
Mr Frydenberg said those raising concerns were jumping the gun. He insisted the government would ‘get the balance right’ and leave existing laws untouched.
‘It’s a report to government, not a report by government; it is yet to be considered by cabinet,’ Mr Frydenberg said.
Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps seized on the reported recommendation stating it was evidence the Liberal government wanted to water down anti-discrimination laws.
‘What this Ruddock report has the potential to do if legislation is introduced that waters down our anti-discrimination laws, is to make Australia a less fair and equal country,’ Dr Phelps told AAP.
‘We need to see what’s in this report and what’s in the proposed legislation before the Wentworth by-election.’
While Mr Sharma spoke out against the reported Ruddock recommendations he toed the party line on climate change — a key issue for many Wentworth voters.
The former ambassador to Israel argued the coalition government was doing enough on that front.
Dr Phelps said that suggestion was ‘a joke’.
‘It is just ridiculous that the Liberal candidate for Wentworth can say that the Liberal government is doing enough on climate change — the Liberal government does not have a policy on climate change,’ Dr Phelps said.
Senior government ministers on Wednesday insisted the long-awaited Ruddock review did not recommend any changes to the basis on which faith-based schools could reject students or teachers.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP