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Prime Minister urged to protect gay students, teachers as religious discrimination bill introduced

The Prime Minister has introduced the to parliament, but he is being urged by moderate Liberal MPs to also act immediately to ensure gay students and teachers are better protected.Key points: said the bill would protect people of faith against “cancel culture”The proposed law would protect people making “statements of belief” as long as they do not vilify or threaten othersSome Liberal MPs are urging the PM to strengthen protections for gay students and teachersYears after the original draft was written, Scott Morrison introduced the watered-down legislation on Thursday morning and said the proposed law would bring “clarity” and “confidence” that “Australians of faith will be protected from ”.”Many people from various religious traditions are concerned about the lack of religious protection against the prevalence of cancel culture on campuses and in Australian corporate life,” he said.”A Sikh should not be discriminated against because of the turban they wear. Nor a Maronite because of the cross around their neck. Nor a Muslim employee who keeps a prayer mat in the bottom drawer of their desk at work,” he said.The law is seeking to protect Australians who make “statements of belief” from existing state-based discrimination , but only if those statements do not “threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify a person or group”.Under the law, religious schools and organisations would be allowed to give preference and prioritise the employment and enrolment of people from the same faith, but the institutions would have to have a clear public policy that explained how religious views would be enforced.What’s in the religious discrimination bill?The government is about to introduce its religious discrimination bill. Here’s what’s in it — and what’s not — and what people think of it so far.Read moreMr Morrison described the bill as a “sensible and balanced” one.”It is the product of a tolerant and mature society that understands the importance of faith and belief,” he said.”It balances, as Australia always must, freedom with responsibility.”To many Australians, religion is inseparable to their culture. They are one and the same.”The Prime Minister said the bill was not about setting one group of Australians against another “because to do so would diminish us all”.”It strengthens important freedoms that have been buffeted over recent years,” he said.In a statement, Shadow Attorney-General said Labor would “carefully review the bill” and consult with the community on it.”Labor supports the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or activities,” he said.Labor also wants the bill to be scrutinised by a joint select committee, which would include both senators and members of the House of Representatives.The government expects the bill will be voted on and passed in the House next week but will be referred to a Senate committee — comprised of only senators — when it reaches the upper house.Push for protection for studentsWhile many religious organisations have welcomed the new bill, LGBTIQ advocacy groups have voiced concerns about it, particularly about what it may mean for gay students and staff at religious schools.”Nothing in this bill, I stress … allows for any form of discrimination against a student on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity,” Mr Morrison said.”You won’t find anything of that nature in this bill. Such discrimination has no place in our education system.”Despite the Prime Minister’s comments, some moderate are urging Mr Morrison to act on a 2018 promise to change the sex discrimination act to protect students from being expelled because of their sexuality.The government has already confirmed the act will be reviewed but backbencher said that would take too long.”My view is that there is no earthly reason why we can’t get on with this now, rather than putting in place a review that will go for longer than 12 months,” he said.”It is disturbing that still today a school could exercise those rights to expel a student because of their sexuality.”Assistant Attorney-General said the review was something the government was still “committed to pursue”.