Attorney-General extends review of religious exemptions for schools

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says PwC must be "fully accountable" for the tax scandal.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says PwC must be "fully accountable" for the tax scandal. Photo: AAP

A review of religious exemptions for educational institutions has been granted an extension by the federal government, prompting a call for the inquiry to include all faith-based organisations.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is reviewing how federal anti-discrimination laws apply to religious schools.

A final report was due in April but because of the large number of submissions, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the reporting date had been extended.

Mr Dreyfus said the extension would give the commission more time to consider exemptions for educational institutions in federal anti-discrimination law.

Commissioner Stephen Rothman will now report back to the government before the end of the year.

But national LGBTQI advocacy group Just.Equal said the extension was an opportunity to expand the inquiry’s scope to include faith-based organisations such as hospitals and charities.

Spokesperson Sally Goldner said discrimination in faith-based hospitals, disability, welfare and employment services and charities was just as serious as in schools.

“Those who seek help from faith-based services are often vulnerable and in great need, while staff in these services are under immense pressure to meet this need,” she said.

“It is completely unacceptable that these clients and staff members should face the possibility of discrimination … without any legal protection.”

Christian Schools Australia said the report’s delay would create apprehension amongst people of faith across the country.

‘”Protections against discrimination for people of faith are long overdue and LGBTQI students should not have to live with the fear whipped up by activists,” public policy director Mark Spencer said.

“The time for action on these issues is now.”

The Albanese government has committed to ensuring religious schools cannot discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.

It has also pledged to rule out discrimination against staff on the basis of their sexuality or gender while ensuring religious schools have the power to preference staff of their own faith when hiring.

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