Equality Tasmania Rodney Croome

Tasmanian campaign fighting to protect state anti-discrimination laws

A coalition of Tasmanian groups has launched a new campaign to defend the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act from being overridden by the proposed federal religious discrimination laws.

The campaign encourages Tasmanians who oppose discrimination to write to the state’s federal representatives and key national politicians through a new website called No Right to Discriminate.

Tasmanian disability human rights advocate Fiona Strahan said that 25% of Tasmanians are people with disabilities – just one of the groups who would be left more vulnerable under the proposed laws.

“The largest proportion of discrimination complaints under the state law the federal government wants to override are from people with disability,” said Strahan.

“Any attempt to water down Tasmania’s sterling Anti-Discrimination Act will disproportionally disadvantage people with disability.”

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said agreed that the Federal Government should be copying, not weakening, Tasmania’s “gold-standard Anti-Discrimination Act”.

“We urge everyone who supports an inclusive Tasmania to write to our federal members urging them to vote the federal religious freedom legislation down,” said Croome.

Jo Flanagan, CEO of Women’s Health Tasmania, said the group has many concerns about the bill, including the discrimination it would allow in healthcare.

“To ensure Tasmanian women have equitable access to healthcare and do not face discrimination in the name of religion, we want the federal government to scrap this bill and start again,” said Flanagan.

The religious discrimination bill directly overrides section 17 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits humiliating, intimidating, and insulting conduct.

Under the federal bill, such conduct would be allowed in the name of religion.

The religious discrimination bill would also allow health practitioners to refuse to provide any treatments they have a religious or conscientious objection to. 

Strahan said diverse groups are united in their opposition to the bill.

“The religious freedom debate is thought of as being about God versus LGBTIQ people, but this bill will also affect Australia’s First People, people with disability, women, and our multicultural communities, all of whom who have too often suffered hateful and harmful speech and behaviour in the name of religion,” she said. 

“Collectively, our histories include discrimination, exclusion, hatred, institutionalisation, experimentation, poverty, and unwanted medical interventions, often in God’s name.”

“The federal religious discrimination bill threatens social cohesion and the gains we have made as a society to protect and empower people who have been segregated, isolated, and excluded from Australian life.”

Last year, a wide range of Tasmanian organisations co-signed a community statement opposing the religious discrimination bill and its override of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

The same groups have also organised forums and rallies against the bill.

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