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Liberals not shown religion legal advice | The Advocate

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Moderate Liberals were not shown legal advice the attorney-general is using to justify saying that amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act would increase discrimination against students. Liberal MPs Trent Zimmerman, Fiona Martin, Dave Sharma, Bridget Archer and Katie Allen crossed the floor to support a crossbench and Labor amendment to protect gay and transgender students from being expelled from religious schools. But the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has issued a decree to the federal government, saying the religious discrimination bill needed to be passed before polling day and more needed to be done to protect Australian citizens. AFIC president Rateb Jneid said the bill didn’t give sufficient protection to Australians, with a number of industries remaining uncovered. “Though different Australians may have different faiths, they respect the sacred nature of their faith tradition,” he said. “(They) expect their political representatives to respect the first rule of democracy, that the majority’s peaceful wishes shouldn’t be overruled by the demands of one minority group.” The fate of the bill remains in limbo with it likely proceeding to another inquiry to determine what the passed amendments would mean for the laws. There is a slim chance of it passing before the next election with a limited number of sitting days remaining. The Senate stonewalled the bill, with no party voting to bring it on for debate after non-government amendments passed the lower house. Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has since cited legal advice saying the amendments to the Sex Discrimination Acted broad protections and the grounds on which religious schools could discriminate. But Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who intended to cross the floor in the Senate if the government tried to repeal the amendment, confirmed he hadn’t seen the legal advice in detail. “I haven’t seen that advice in detail. It’s been a busy week, I’ll have a look at the advice,” he said on Friday. “There are a lot of good measures in the bill but as we put in place that particular law, we need to make sure we protect all minority groups in doing so.” Another moderate Liberal also confirmed they had not seen the advice before voting on the amendments. Independent MP Rebekha Sharkie – who moved the amendment – only received a letter from the attorney-general after the fact and said it didn’t include the legal advice underpinning the letter. Ms Sharkie called for Senator Cash to release the full legal advice, casting doubt on its validity. “I have deep concerns over the cited but unseen legal advice and have a sense of deja vu after the government previously misrepresented legal advice on the medevac transfer bill,” she wrote on Twitter. “If the government was genuinely worried over the so-called unintended consequences, it could draft its own amendments in the Senate to address said issues.” Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus – who was copied into the letter – said it was a desperate attempt by the prime minister to cover up a “humiliating defeat on the floor of the House”. The prime minister initially wrote to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on December 1 expressing his intention to “move an amendment to remove the provision of the Sex Discrimination Act” to protect students from discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. It was the same day moderate Liberals secured the government’s commitment to change the Sex Discrimination Act to protect LGBTQI+ students. Katie Allen announced the deal in a Facebook post, which read: “Proud that the Sex Discrimination Act will be modified to protect LGBTIQA+ kids in schools”. “This will help the lives of so many children – it’s a real win for tolerance and diversity.” Australian Associated Press



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