Liberal MP to cross floor on discrimination bill

Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer says the bill would override state anti-discrimination laws.

Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer says the bill would override state anti-discrimination laws. Photo: Getty

The government’s contentious religious discrimination bill is all but dead on arrival as a Liberal MP says she will vote against the laws.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer said she couldn’t support the bill in its current form and she wasn’t sure if there was any way to ” bridge the divide”.

Ms Archer expressed concern the bill would override state anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT+ students.

“Tasmania has very strong anti discrimination laws and as a Tasmanian I know they have been very hard fought laws,” she told the ABC.

“We should do what we can to protect them and to continue to not discriminate or not allow discrimination against anyone on the basis of any attribute.”

She would likely cross the floor on the proposed laws when debate continues on the issue this week.

Support from a group of moderate Liberal MPs hinges on the government removing a part of the Sex Discrimination Act that allows religious schools to discriminate against students.

But any such changes would risk the government losing support of more conservative MPs as well as Catholic lobby groups, who have said they would pull their support of the bill if any changes are made to the SDA.

Ms Archer said protections for LGBT students and teachers should also be enshrined as part of the laws, following concerns religious schools could unfairly expel or sack people based on their sexuality.

The Bass MP joins two other Liberal MPs who have indicated they would not support the bill without substantial amendments, saying it was extraordinary people were debating whether students and young people should be protected from discrimination.

She said talks had continued between herself and Prime Minister Scott Morrison about support for the bill.

One of her key concerns with the bill as it currently stood was the “statement of belief” clause. It would allow comments that offended, humiliated or insulted others as long as they expressed a person’s faith and were not malicious.

“It seems to me that the statement of belief provision is integral to what is trying be changed,” she said.

“That is probably where the impasse is from my point of view, so I don’t see how that can be bridged.”

Ms Archer crossed the floor last year to support a federal anti-corruption body.

Debate on the issue is set to resume this week when federal parliament returns for the 2022 sitting year.


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