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Report from the latest Senate Inquiry

The Senate Inquiry into the Wong Bill that was introduced to the Senate last year has been tabled. You will recall that the Wong Bill was seeking to change the Se x Discrimination Act, removing exemptions that give schools important clarity that they can teach according to their beliefs; and manage school life and students behaviour in accordance with their beliefs.

The Bill had a swathe of amendments attached to it from the Government, the Greens and the Centre Alliance Party, all trying to pull the Bill in a direction that would make it either more or less restrictive for schools and churches.

The Inquiry recommended that the Bill should not be passed but that it, and all the amendments, should be referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission.

The Labor members of the committee issued a dissenting report which reaffirmed the commitment of the Oppostion to remove discrimination against students and teachers. They recommended that the Senate should amend the Bill to clarify the scope of educational institutions (e.g. to ensure the Bill doesn’t make it impossible for churches to preach a traditionally held view of marriage) but that there should be no other amendments beyond that, and the Bill should be passed.

The Greens also issued a dissenting report that urged for the Bill to be passed with their parties amendments, and for the Fair Work Act to also be looked at to ensure it doesn’t allow discrimination.

Importantly, Senator Rex Patrick from the Centre Alliance Party—the Senators who held the deciding vote on the Bill last year and who sent it to committee—participated in this committee and was able to hear all the arguments from AACS and other groups who submitted.

The Inquiry received over 1,000 submissions in total.

It is now very likely that this issue will remain unresolved until after the election in May. The issues however, will not go away, so it is important for schools to be thinking through these issues and their response to them, as the matter will no doubt re-emerge.

 Click here to download the report 

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