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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14935

Schools

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your letter of 18 February 2019 regarding Petition EN0795 concerning the ability of religious and political organisations to discriminate in employment in accordance with their religious beliefs or political philosophy, respectively.

On 13 December 2018, the Prime Minister and I released the Report of the Religious Freedom Review. The Prime Minister and I also released a comprehensive Australian Government response to the Review, focused on protecting Australians and their right to believe what they want to believe.

The petitioners raise concerns about exceptions to federal discrimination law that allow religious schools 'to only employ teaching staff who hold and demonstrate views in line with the founding principles behind the formation of the school'. As set out in its response to the Review, the Australian Government is consulting with the states and territories on the terms of reference for an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission into this issue, and other relevant exceptions to anti-discrimination law. The Government's position is that Australia is a place where discrimination on the basis of a person's identity (including their religious identity) is unacceptable, but that it is also a place that respects the right of religious institutions to maintain their distinctive ethos.

Under federal anti-discrimination law, it is not unlawful for a political party to require that staff members subscribe to that party's political philosophy. The Australian Government has no plans to amend this aspect of the law.

Thank you for bringing this petition to my attention. I trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

from the Attorney-General, Mr Porter(Petition No. EN0795)