Opinion – by Alistair Lawrie in The Sydney Morning Herald
One Nation’s Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 gets one thing right — the lack of protection for religious belief is a genuine gap in NSW anti-discrimination law.
But when it comes to the detail, the bill not only goes the wrong way about introducing these much-needed protections, it represents a serious threat to the rights of all people in NSW.
The problem arises because of the prioritisation of religious beliefs over the rights of others, with privileges provided to schools, charities and even some commercial businesses to discriminate against others, including people of minority faiths or those of no faith.
To see what this will mean in practice, we can look to one of the many examples provided in the explanatory notes which One Nation State Leader Mark Latham has urged us to read to obtain a “full understanding of what the bill is trying to achieve”.
The notes provide: “A Satanist requests that a publisher print materials that promote the teachings of Satanism. A Jewish employee of the publisher requests that she not be required to facilitate the order …”
How would the bill resolve this issue? According to the notes, the employer cannot require the employee to undertake the task if another employee can do the work or “where alternative publishers are reasonably available to facilitate the order”.
In other words, an employee can refuse to perform the core component of their role (in this case, publishing materials) solely on the basis of their personal religious beliefs, even if this means sending the customer’s business to a competitor.
This would give employees the right to veto the decisions of their employer, including what goods and services are offered and to whom.
And what of the customer? In this example, they are turned away by the publisher because their religious belief does not accord with that of the employee, which is surely the type of discrimination that should be prohibited under a genuine Religious Discrimination Bill.