The NSW government announced on Tuesday 7 September 2021 that following the parliamentary enquiry, it will include discrimination on the basis of religion added to the anti-discrimination laws, but will wait until the Morrison Government introduces and passes a new Religious Discrimination Bill at the national level before deciding on changes.
This means Muslims have to wait for another year to be finally protected from discrimination and vilification unlike Jews or Sikhs and other racial minorities who have some recourse under the current legislation.
“NSW is a proudly multicultural and multi-faith society. We’re pleased to be taking this critical step to protect people of faith and of no faith from discrimination and to support freedom of religion,” Mr Speakman said.
He further added, “by making discrimination on the grounds of religion unlawful, we’re ensuring that our laws reflect modern community values.”
The NSW Government will introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), adding religion to existing protected grounds of disability, sex, race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, transgender status and carer’s responsibilities.
In June 2021, the Commonwealth Government announced its intention to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill to protect against discrimination based on religious belief or activity in key areas of public life into Federal Parliament by the end of this year.
The NSW Government plans to await the passage of the Commonwealth Bill through Parliament before finalising the detail of NSW reforms, to enable it to consider the interaction of Commonwealth law with NSW reforms and to avoid constitutional inconsistency.
“Despite the headline, the announcement by the government is disappointing in that it has effectively cast to the side progressing the bill. The proposed changes had widespread support and strong recommendations in the joint senate committee’s report. There is no reason to delay the progress of the laws based on what happens at a federal level. The NSW statutory framework is entirely different and fundamentally deficient in protecting on the grounds of religion,” ANIC Senior Adviser Bilal Rauf said.
Although the Attorney General defended the delay on legal principle grounds, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) said this principle only applied when the public interest was served by waiting. AMAN has urged Premier Gladys Berejiklian to not delay.
“Already 3 years have passed since the Expert Panel Report: Religious Freedoms Review recommended this change,” said a spokesperson for AMAN.
The spokesperson further added, “the law change would be simple because it would be best done by expanding on current provisions. The debilitating harm it will reduce is widespread. Muslim children, students, workers and communities are discriminated against with impunity in NSW.”
Minister for Multiculturalism Natalie Ward said the reforms will support those facing religious discrimination to access remedies and support through Anti-Discrimination NSW.
“Religious discrimination is unacceptable in our community and the NSW Government is committed to stopping this behaviour,” Mrs Ward said.
She further added, “we have a harmonious multi-faith community in NSW which is grounded in respect. It
deserves recognition and protection to thrive.”
NSW Labor MLA Shaoquett Moselmane welcomed the announcement for the of inclusion of religion into the NSW anti discrimination Act that will now provide some protection to the members of the Muslim community.
“We have witnessed how discrimination, when there is no way to challenge it, is profoundly devastating. It can destroy careers and lives,” AMAN spokesperson said.
“We succeeded against Fraser Anning because Queensland has vilification laws. In New South Wales, there is nothing we can do to stop a public person inciting hatred against us.”
“It is heartbreaking to see this disconnect between our community’s experience and the leisurely approach of elected representatives.”
“How many more of our children, brothers and sisters will suffer before action is taken?”