Australia’s Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill is a bigot’s charter

NEXT week a Senate committee in Australia is to examine the provisions of a draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill which, to the fury of many, would grant wide-ranging exemptions to religious bodies – including, would you believe? – a breakfast cereal company owned by Seventh Day Adventists.

The draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill consolidates five existing federal discrimination laws after a decades-long campaign by lawyers and human rights advocates. The draft bill makes clearer which groups and religious organisations can discriminate against lawfully.

Under the draft bill, faith-based groups, including schools and hospitals, can still refuse to hire people because of a wide range of attributes that would be unlawful for any other organisation, including women who are pregnant or potentially pregnant.

This report points out that among those that would be exempt is Weet-Bix manufacturer Sanitarium, a company that says:

If you share our passion for what we do, our products and you can align with our Christian-based principles this is a great opportunity for you.

Weet-Bix, tasty and full of Christian goodness

Weet-Bix, tasty and packed full of Christian goodness

Sanitarium spokeswoman Julie Praestiin said the company’s workplace culture was:

Grounded on Christian-based values of care, courage, humility, integrity and passion which are generally shared by the Australian community.

She added that Sanitarium complied with employment laws.

We are an equal opportunity employer and have a diverse workforce which encompasses a variety of cultures and worldviews. Religious belief is not a condition of employment.

But Hugh de Kretser, executive officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, said that Sanitarium, which is understood to have a turnover of $300 million a year – although the church is not required to lodge Sanitarium’s financial reports – should not be allowed to discriminate.

That a large organisation with a turnover of $300 million a year is given a green light by the law to discriminate highlights the problems with these exemptions.

Meanwhile, the Australian Greens are insisting that any religious groups that get taxpayer funds should be barred from taking advantage of anti-discrimination loopholes – and immediately incurred the wrath of Australian Christian Lobby head Jim Wallace who described the gathering storm clouds over the draft legislation as a sign of rising “militant atheism”.

The Greens have accused the Australian Christian Lobby of trying to dictate Government policy and demanded Prime Minister Julia Gillard reveal what she might have promised religious leaders about a the draft bill.

Under current exemptions to legislation, religious groups can reject employees for being gay, single parents or living “in sin”.

Wallace’s comments came after a Fairfax news report said Gillard had assured religious groups they would have still have the freedom to discriminate against “sinners”.

Said Wallace:

What people are trying to create here is a new intolerance to faith. I’m not aware of any church or any organisation actually rejecting employment of anyone.

And Wallace compared the freedom to hire and fire based on Christian values to a political party’s right to refuse a job to a member of an opposing party.

The church wants to reflect through its staff the philosophy of Christ. All she (Gillard) said in her response to the concerns of Christian leaders is that she has no intention of limiting freedom of religion.

But the Atheist Foundation of Australia says the bill is, in part:

Legislative protection for outright bigotry. Any other description would be falsifying the language. It does not reflect the ideas of the vast majority of the electorate, whether they are believers or non-believers. That aside, it fails to pass the ethical standard expected of our leaders.

It points out that this law

Protects discrimination against single mothers, gays, lesbians, intersex, transsexuals, bisexuals, adulterers and de-facto couples and belongs to an era that no longer exists. And who knows who else is on the narrow-minded hit list. Such discrimination sends a strong message to the community that some people are – to paraphrase George Orwell – less equal than others in the eyes of the government of the day. The negative impact of this legislation may damage already vulnerable lives and in some cases be the straw that causes self-harm or even suicide.

David Nicholls, President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, said:

Repugnant religious bigotry will always be with us; the same cannot be said for governments that openly support it. The Prime Minister is backing a minority view of overly zealous religious leaders and followers and has been advised badly on this matter.

He added:

Australia’s ever-creeping soft theocracy, which includes the Howard debacle of chaplains in state schools and progressive legislation not enacted or stymied by faith initiatives, has become a matter only controllable by the voter.

And he pointed out:

Tasmania removed the ability of religions to discriminate on such grounds about ten years ago. As far as we know, it has not sunk beneath the waves or suffered any inconvenience because of it.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

32 responses to “Australia’s Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill is a bigot’s charter”

  1. barriejohn says:

    There were some acid comments on this thread, especially in light of the fact that Ms Gillard herself is “living in sin”!

  2. AgentCormac says:

    Humility?! WTF? Since when has humility been a christian ‘virtue’? The xtians I come across consistently display the complete antithesis of such an attribute.

  3. barriejohn says:

    I’ve been trying to post some of the comments aimed at Ms Gillard from that Pink News article without success, so I’ll try once again!

    In my church we reserve the right not to employ gingers.

    So sod off.

    And another:

    Where will it stop ?

    How about allowing employers to discriminate based on a person’s sex? Seems perfectly reasonable to do that if you’re allowed to ban on the basis of sexual orientation…

    Wonder how hypocritical it seems that a WOMAN in a traditionally MALE role is apparently allowing this to continue.

    Why not go the full hog and segregate natives from european settlers…

  4. IikagenBoB says:

    So “What people are trying to create here is a new intolerance to faith.” But these religious types are oh-so tolerant of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their loony-tunes perspective on the world… Sheesh…

  5. Daz says:

    “Please do not persecute us by not allowing us to persecute others.”

  6. remigius says:

    ‘…provisions of a draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill…’

    Barry, you spelled daft wrong.

  7. barriejohn says:

    Remigius: I always see that word when I read “draft”!

    On the outside, we may seem like just another food company. But on the inside, we’re a lot more than that. We’re a group of people who believe passionately in the potential of every Australian. The potential to be healthy: physically, mentally and emotionally. The potential to be happy. The potential to live life with purpose. And we believe this journey all begins with good nutrition. Because what you feed your body and your mind, changes the way you feel.

    Caring for our world is important to us, which is why we choose to honour, preserve and care for our world as a created gift.

    Yuk – I’ve been sick already!!

  8. Stonyground says:

    We can’t crow much because here in the UK we have exemptions to equality laws, animal cruelty laws and human rights laws that only apply to religious groups. The odd thing is, the non religious tend not to discriminate against people because we disapprove of their lifestyles, or insist that our meat is killed in an unnecessarily cruel manner, or want to mutilate our children. Religion seems to me to be the main reason that these laws are needed, so why pass the laws and then give the religious a get out clause?

    I’ve just read on a blog somewhere, maybe the Freindly Athiest, not sure, that being an atheist is like being the only sober person in the car but no-one will let you drive.

  9. barriejohn says:

    I’m beginning to question the sanity of Australians:

    Well, that’s one idiot who was clearly off his head!

  10. Buffy says:

    I’m sick to death of religious nutters getting special exemptions from laws just because they’re religious nutters.

  11. Robster says:

    The religious bigots seem to have infected the ruling Labor party with their hate. Gillard is an atheist but seems desperate to remain in power by pandering to religious bigots andlegalising their hate by legislating it. I’m embarassed to be an Australian. Everything the religious touch turns nasty, like their dodgy god fantasy.

  12. Stephen Mynett says:

    At this rate she will form a coalition with Fred Nile. I assume the bigoted git is still going.

  13. RabbitOnAStick says:

    what caused all the recent fires then? sin!!!

    Was it the gays?
    or gay koalas with matches?

  14. T says:

    So rcc priests can rape children, be protected from the law by their organisation, can in Germany refuse to cooperate with the legal authorities, spread aids in Africa, forbid birth control and deliver squalor to overpopulated countries, interfere with women’s health care in the USA, work strenuously to discriminate rights of the gay community, interfere with the elected governments of democratic countries all over the world, lie, spin and behave like spoiled brats when ordinary decent people stand up for secular rights and now they have the legalised right to discriminate against anyone they choose in Australia. I am astonished. I thought Aussies were smarter, fairer and more civilised than this.

  15. Matt Westwood says:

    “I thought Aussies were smarter, fairer and more civilised than this.”

    My suspicion is that they *are*, and this bill will get scrapped before going much further, and that Gilliard will be replaced by someone more honest, fair and sensible. If not, then it’s *seriously* a case of batten down the hatches because it can’t be long before another world war – but this time it won’t be nation against nation, it’s going to be round-the-world neophile vs. neophobe, acceptors/rejectors of the Axiom of Choice, brains against stupidity, anarchism against fascism.

    Meet you on the other side, or bust …

  16. Tom80 says:

    ” spread aids in Africa”

    How do you justify that statement? I just do not understand.

  17. remigius says:

    Tom80. Condoms are the most effective way to prevent the spread of AIDS.

    The Catholic church is against the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.

    You can work the rest out for yourself.

  18. Carlos T says:

    Let me help you with that one, Tom80:
    There is a lot more like it on the Internet

  19. Daz says:

    Or, to put it another way:

    Since the HIV virus is 0.0001mm across and a molecule of water is 0.000003mm across, according to Joe Ratzinger et al, this…

    … shouldn’t happen.

    Lunatic evidence-denial; ain’t it grand?

  20. Helen says:

    They should check with the Germans. After ww2, churches got the right to discriminate when hiring employees. Effect: in 1960, 260.000 embployees had no religious and personal freedom, and half of them wre priests or monks, now, its 1.300.000, with less priests.
    Also, check with, they have a campaign to abolish this.

  21. Tom80 says:

    Thank you all for answering my query ref the Catholic church causing Aids to spread.I have never understood peoples reasoning on this.

    As everyone on this site derides believers as being illogical I should like to make the followin points:
    The Church teaches that Sexual acts should only take place within marriage. It also Teaches that Homosexual acts are Sin. The Church teaches contraception is wrong. Now if everyone followed those teachings it seems logical to me that Aids would not spread as it is an STD,and how could it spread if Sexual relations were confined to married stable couples and there were no homosexual acts.

    If you take all the Church teaaching together on this then I think it is a touch illogical to blame the Church for the spread of Aids and everone on this site seems to believe in logic above all else,with the possible exception of Ken.

  22. Daz says:


    You know what I think is illogical? Basing your so-called morals on the pronouncements of a bunch of morally bankrupt, power mad idiots, based on the equally immoral teachings of a being who you can’t even prove exists.

    Please do us all the favour of folding your “church teaching” until it’s all sharp corners, and ramming it up your arse.

    Have a nice day now.

  23. RussellW says:

    Gillard is one of the worst Conservative Prime Ministers we’ve ever had.

  24. remigius says:

    Tom80. So the Catholic church dictates that sexual acts should only take place on their terms. Surely that shows just how out of touch they really are.

  25. barriejohn says:

    Tom: Are you going to ban blood transfusions and vaccinations in that utopian little world of yours?

  26. Stephen Mynett says:

    Thank you for being so bigoted and outdated Tom. The catholic church does not have the right to tell people how to run their lives, neither does any other religion. Sex is natural to most creatures and not a thing to be restricted.
    The simple fact is that people will not listen to your crap on when and where they can have sex, so condoms are one of the best ways of preventing HIV from spreading.
    I have lost several friends to AIDS and it is a horrible way to die. People like you make me sick with your pathetic moralising, you almost gloat over the deaths.

  27. Warrigal says:

    Recommendation contained in the Uniting Church submission.

    Recommendation 26: We do not believe that religious organisations should be granted an exception for their activities in the provision of services, including education and accommodation services. As such, we do not believe that exemptions such as those granted in Section 38 (c) of the Sex Discrimination Act should be included in a consolidated Act.

    Wallace does not speak for all churches. Not any probably, he’s self appointed.

  28. Tom80 says:

    Thank you for your responses. I have no wish to ban blood transfusions or vaccinations,with proper controls and procedures they do not spread AIDS and neither do I gloat over anyones death.

    “Sex is natural to most creatures and not a thing to be restricted”. The fact is that since society has had this attitude STD transfer has increased. When I was a young man it was very unusual for anyone to have sexual relations unless they were married and we did not have the same rate of STD as we do now. Sorry if you think this is bigoted but it is what I have noticed over my lifetime.

  29. Daz says:

    When I was a young man it was very unusual for anyone to have sexual relations unless they were married and we did not have the same rate of STD as we do now.

    No, when you were a young man it wasn’t talked about as openly. Ever hear of a quaint old rural tradition known as the “shotgun wedding”? And as for STDs, just to pluck one statistic at random, over 400,000 British and Dominion troops were treated for venereal disease during WW1.

    You are longing for a golden age which never existed. Oh, and you’re still defending an immoral policy espoused by an amoral organisation. As per my last comment; how’s the origami going, old chap?

  30. Broga says:

    @Daz: There is a fantasy world about the past. Margaret Thatcher bought into it with her daft ideas about the Victorian Age. The aristocracy were infamous for shagging anyone they got hold off and then sacking a kitchen wench who got pregnant. As for the plebs they were so crammed together that sexual activity including incest was intense.

    Somerset Maugham, when a doctor at St Thomas’s Hospital, used his experience in Lambeth of packed tenements, promiscuous sex and women who often produced 10 or more children in Liza of Lambeth. In Thatcher’s golden age drunkeness and violent men were part of the plebs’ family life. The horror and sexual activity of the “low lives” is well described in “The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham” by Selina Hastings. (A brilliant biography.)

    I admire and enjoy Maugham’s short stories. His parents died when he was a child and he had a miserable life with a relative who was an unintelligent, idle and snobbish vicar. You might find the following quote (relevant to this site) interesting.

    At the age of 16…….”one day he himself realised he no longer believed. The relief was enormous. He felt as though a huge burden had been removed: a weight of prejudice and retribution, of the suffocating dullness of church services ….living in fear of eternal punishment. ‘The whole horrible structure, based not on love of God but on the fear of Hell, tumbled down like a house of cards…….He was responsible only to himself for the things he did……he was his own master at last.” page 32 of Selina Hastings’ biography.

    Good stuff eh? Must echo many experiences of people here.

  31. Stephen Mynett says:

    You just choose to ignore facts and hang on to oudated ideas Tom, as been said be other, STDs have been around for a long time just not talked about. Like Ken you use a few weasel words to sidestep the issue.
    As for with your “with proper controls and procedures” crap, we were told back in the 80s there were proper controls and procedures and that did not stop well over 30% of haemophilliacs in the UK being infected with HIV.
    Face the facts, you are not going to stop people enjoying sex, so the best way is the use of the condom not an outdated philosphy taken from a couple of cruddy old books put together by those who wanted to control society.
    I am sorry but you do come across as an arrogant and uncaring bigot because what you notice is entirley what the church wants you to notice. There is a thing out there called reality, try it.

  32. Bubblecar says:

    I would urge all Australian atheists to boycott Weet-Bix. It’s horrible muck anyway – tastes like horse feed and makes you fart.