With the Western Australian Labor government returning to parliamentary work this week after receiving an overwhelming endorsement at the March election, we want to share our policy wishlist with Premier Mark McGowan.
We’d like to see the government step in to stop the discriminatory hiring practices taking place in taxpayer-funded school chaplaincy programs.
Currently, many of the advertised chaplain positions are being restricted to Christians. We believe that suitably qualified youth workers, regardless of religious belief, should have an equal opportunity to apply for the roles.
We’d like to see the McGowan government follow South Australia’s lead and pursue changes to the special exemptions that are available to religious organisations in anti-discrimination law.
Currently, faith-based schools can refuse the enrolment of students from same-sex families, expel LGBTIQ students and sack LGBTIQ staff. Similarly, faith-based service providers, such as in crisis accommodation, can deny service to same-sex couples.
Equality campaigners have described the state’s laws in this area as among the “worst” in the country.
Like all other state parliaments and the federal parliament, the Western Australian parliament continues to impose the recital of exclusively Christian prayers at the opening of its lower and upper houses.
We’d like to see the McGowan government introduce something more inclusive and representative of the diverse range of religious and non-religious beliefs held by members of parliament, staff of the parliament and the community.
In the Australian Capital Territory, for example, members are called on to pray or reflect in silence at the opening of its assembly’s business.
Safe zones around abortion clinics
Western Australia remains the only state or territory yet to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics.
The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2020 passed the lower house in November last year and reached the second reading stage in the upper house.
We’d like to see the McGowan government prioritise this much-needed legislation to protect women from intimidation and harassment during their time of need.
We’d like to see the government follow through with legislation to extend to ministers of religion mandatory reporting requirements in relation to sexual abuse of children, including information obtained during religious confession.
The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 remained in the committee stage in the upper house when the government went to the election, having already passed the lower house in May 2020.
The legislation has attracted opposition from religious groups, including the Catholic Church. Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has argued that the mandatory reporting obligations should not include information gained by clergy during the sacrament of confession as the practice was an “intimate encounter with God”.
Gay conversion practices
We’re pleased that the Premier made an election commitment to criminalise gay conversion practices.
But now, with the LGBTIQ community ranking it as a top priority, it’s time for the McGowan government to get on with the job of introducing a bill to parliament that tackles conversion practices in both medical and religious settings.
Photo: Mark McGowan (Facebook)