The Federal Government is on track to introduce religious discrimination legislation in 2020, with a second exposure draft of its Religious Discrimination Bill introduced in parliament in late December 2019.
The Bill adopts the general objects, protections and prohibitions contained in similar Federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Age Discrimination Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act, with some alterations to reflect the distinct nature of ‘religious belief or activity’ as a protected attribute.
Amongst other things, the Bill will (if passed):
- protect and promote the right of religious freedom in Australian public and private sectors
- make it generally unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of their religious belief or activity, or because they have or do not have a religious belief, or because they do or do not participate in a religious activity
- introduce a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission
- contain specific provisions relating to discrimination in the context of employment including ‘carve-outs’ such as the right to discriminate against a person on the grounds of religious belief or activity in employment if they are unable to carry out the inherent requirements of that employment or in order to preserve the ‘religious ethos’ of the employer