Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner says the federal government's religious discrimination bill constitutes a drastic departure from state and Commonwealth legislation working concurrently together.
The federal bill, introduced to Parliament before the end of the year, would preclude a complaint of insulting, intimidating, humiliating, ridiculing or offensive behaviour being tested under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act if the actions were carried out on the basis of religious belief.
It will also allow people to exclude the provision of goods, services, accommodation, work and education to others on the basis of religious belief.
In a submission made to a Senate committee tasked with examining the bill, Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt said neither state or Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws could override one another.
"The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 is a drastic and unjustified departure from this longstanding and consistent approach," she said.
"In my view, it is unjustifiable that a statement of belief retains priority over all other discrimination laws."
Ms Bold said an expert panel of the Religious Freedom Review recommended that anti-discrimination legislation reflect the equal status in international law of all human rights, including freedom of religion.
She said the bill went against this recommendation.
"It is my submission that the Commonwealth should treat human rights equally, provide protections against discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity, and not abolish existing protections for people against discrimination and related conduct," Ms Bolt said.
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Premier Peter Gutwein told Tasmanian Parliament last month the government had expressed its view to the federal government that the bill as drafted would diminish the opportunity for the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to deal with certain complaints.
"We have advocated for no weakening of Tasmania's anti-discrimination laws," he said.
"We understand that these types of reforms can be contentious in conflicts which is why we have taken the time to thoroughly consider the draft bill."
TasCOSS in a submission to the Senate committee urged rejection of the bill.
"if passed, the bill will have a profound impact on the legislative and social landscape in Tasmania with respect to protection from discrimination." it said.
The committee is also examining an amendment to the Marriage Act to allow religious educational institutions to refuse the hire of facilities or provision of goods and services if it was against that institution's religious belief.
This change has also been opposed by TasCOSS.
"This proposal is clearly aimed at LGBTIQ+ couples marrying and will override existing protections in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act," it said.
"It could also affect others, such as divorced people seeking to remarry."
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