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Labor vows protection for LGBTQIA students

Labor has vowed LGBTQIA students will be protected as election debate re-emerges on the government’s proposed religious discrimination laws.

As Scott Morrison said the laws would be a priority for his government should the coalition be re-elected, he is yet to indicate when amendments protecting gay and transgender students from being expelled from faith-based schools would be addressed.

Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said any proposal to amend the Sex Discrimination Act would be done in the normal way.

“We have been consistently clear that we don’t want to see any child discriminated against,” she told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“If we form government we will consult widely on the legislation. We don’t want to do what Scott Morrison has done, which is divide the nation by introducing this type of legislation.”

Religious discrimination laws were a key campaign commitment from the coalition at the 2019 election.

However, plans to legislate were scuttled when five Liberal MPs crossed the floor of parliament earlier this year to protect LGBTQIA students.

The prime minister said the sexual discrimination amendments would be addressed, but did not commit to a timeline, only that it would be done after religious discrimination laws.

Dave Sharma, one of the five MPs to cross the floor on the issue, reiterated students should not be discriminated against.

“My position on this hasn’t changed. I believe that religious people and people of faith should deserve protection against discrimination on the grounds of their faith,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“I also believe that students and teachers should not be discriminated against in religious schools … both of those viewpoints can be true at the same time and any legislation need to reflect both of those viewpoints.”

Mr Sharma said the legislation would be able to be addressed in the next parliamentary term but more time would be needed to debate the issue.

“We didn’t have the time in the last parliament because of a number of other more pressing matters, including the response to the pandemic,” he said.

Another MP who crossed the floor, Victorian Katie Allen, also said her position was unchanged and that LGBT students should be protected.

Despite concerns LGBTQIA students could be expelled from religious schools due to their sexuality, Mr Morrison said he had not seen reports of that occurring.

“We’ve been having this conversation for about the last four years and on each occasion it has been presented that apparently students are being expelled … there is no evidence of that at all, there’s none,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“The point is it doesn’t happen … religious schools themselves don’t wish to do that.”

However, he said religious people were being discriminated against every day.

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