KEY PARTS OF RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL
* Aim is to protect against discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity in key areas of life and set up a new Freedom of Religion Commissioner under the Australian Human Rights Commission to deal with complaints.
* Three bills: Religious Discrimination Bill 2019; Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019; and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019.
* Broadly in line with other federal anti-discrimination law dealing with age, disability and sex discrimination.
* Complaints can be made to the AHRC, and where the commission can't conciliate a complaint, a person may apply to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court.
* A complaint can be made alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of their religious belief or activity if the: person has or engages in a religious belief or activity; person has been subject to direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of their religious belief or activity; discrimination occurs in a specified area of public life, and conduct is covered by the bill and an exception does not apply.
* The term 'religious belief or activity' is defined as: holding or not holding a religious belief, or engaging, not engaging or refusing to engage in lawful religious activity (atheism and agnosticism is covered).
* Direct discrimination is where a person treats another person less favourably than someone in similar circumstances, because of that person's religious belief or activity, eg refusing to hire a Buddhist person because of their faith.
* Indirect discrimination may include, for example, an employer requiring all employees to attend meetings on Friday afternoons, as it could disadvantage Jewish employees who leave early on Fridays to observe the Sabbath.
* Areas of 'public life' covered include: employment, education, access to premises, goods, services and facilities, accommodation, land, sport, clubs, and Commonwealth laws and programs.
* The bill does not cover conduct by religious bodies (such as churches, religious charities and mosques), when acting in accordance with their faith.
* There are also work exemptions, such as a hospital hiring a chaplain for a particular religious belief or activity.
* A person cannot be found to have discriminated against a person under any anti-discrimination law for merely expressing their genuinely held religious beliefs in good faith. This could include, for example, merely stating a 'biblical' view of marriage or an atheist view on prayer. But this does not protect statements that are malicious, would harass, vilify or incite hatred or violence.
(Source: Attorney-General's Department)
Australian Associated Press