PREMIER Will Hodgman has sought to ease concerns about laws now before the upper house that could see schools discriminate on religious grounds.
Proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act could soon allow faith-based schools to give admission preference to students who share their religious beliefs. Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said he was bitterly disappointed the laws had passed the first hurdle.
He and Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks have both argued the laws could have extremely broad unintended consequences.
‘‘In my view this is a Bigots’ Charter because it will allow prejudiced school authorities to turn away students for any number of tawdry reasons dressed up as ‘religious belief’,’’ Mr Croome said.
‘‘The government has failed to allay legitimate concerns about this bad legislation.’’
Ms Banks has argued measures are already in place for schools to preference children of its religion where there is competition for limited places.
Premier Will Hodgman said all stakeholder concerns and views on the bill had been taken on board.
‘‘It’s not radical what we’re doing here in Tasmania – we’re actually coming in step with every other state,’’ Mr Hodgman said.
The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the bill’s passage through the House of Assembly, saying religious schools should have the right to preserve their ethos and culture.
‘‘It will also ensure schools can continue to make certain the distinctives that make the school what it is, thereby ensuring the diversity in the types of schools available in Tasmania,’’ ACL state director Mark Brown said.
‘‘The amendment will not, as some have suggested, unfairly target minority groups.’’
The bill is likely to be debated in the Legislative Council later this month.