Everyone should have the right to work in a tuck shop
Dear Prime Minister,
Senator Penny Wong is one of Australia’s strongest Finance Ministers, yet under the proposed federal anti-discrimination bill, she could be fired from a tuck-shop in a religiously affiliated school. Despite being Prime Minister, as a declared atheist, a school could ban you from providing leadership training to young girls.
A church-run hospital in an isolated indigenous community could reject the expert knowledge of former AMA President Prof. Kerryn Phelps.
Not only does discrimination directly affect those discriminated against, it affects entire communities. Religiously affiliated service providers are able to deny a community the best possible teachers, doctors, nurses, and counsellors, on grounds totally unrelated to to their ability to perform the job.
As I am sure you have, my office has recently been inundated with stories of discrimination. One teacher told me she was fired in case her “gayness” infected students and patients in regional hospitals have told me they are nervous about seeking sexual health advice for fear of being thrown out.
The damage caused by this discrimination has seriously negative mental health impacts and can increase the risk of suicide. The Australian Christian Lobby head, Jim Wallace, recently boasted how much time of yours he gets. It’s time you met with those damaged by the discrimination practiced by people like Jim Wallace.
Also affected by the cruel exemptions in the bill are single mums. Not only have you recently reduced their financial support by moving them to Newstart, the proposed bill potentially reduces the number of opportunities they have to find work. A publicly funded service provider, that happens to managed by a church, could deem their “situation” to be “inappropriate” and therefore reject their application, regardless of what skills they have or how increasingly desperate they now are to find a job.
Of course, we are not talking about what happens in the church. We are talking about the religious organisations who tender to receive taxpayer funding to provide a public service. They are then legally able to abuse their duty of care by denying service provision to some groups and also ignore equitable employment practices.
It is expected that aged-care providers will not be able to practice these type of discrimination, due to the vulnerability of those involved. This is to be applauded, but must be extended to all publicly funded sectors, as LGBTI youth and single mums are also especially vulnerable.
The harmonisation of national anti-discrimination laws provides your government with the chance to make a positive change to lives of individuals and communities across Australia. Failure to do so would be a shameful misuse of an historic opportunity.
Yours in good faith,
Alex Greenwich MP
NSW Member for Sydney
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