Janet Rice on Greens bill to remove discrimination against LGBT+ students and staff in religious schools

I’m proud to rise to speak on this Greens bill, the Discrimination Free Schools Bill, which would remove exemptions from our federal anti-discrimination laws that currently allow religious schools to expel lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender-diverse students and to fire LGBT teachers and staff members simply because of who they are. The Greens have been fighting for years to end these exemptions. They were written into our anti-discrimination laws by the Labor Party and have persisted for far too long. These exemptions must be removed.
Imagine being a student at a religious school and knowing that, if you come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender-diverse or non-binary, you risk being expelled. Imagine the extra stress and burden that that places on you at a time when you’re already feeling particularly vulnerable. The majority of Australians have been unaware of these discriminatory exemptions, but for LGBT+ people working at religious schools, many of them have gone to work each day knowing that, should they come out or let slip something that they shouldn’t, or somehow have their sexuality or their gender identity discovered, they risk being fired and losing their job—just because of who they are. These exemptions have a devastating impact on people’s lives.
Over the past week, so many people have come forward sharing their stories. We’ve heard how some teachers and staff members have been forced back into the closet as soon as they’ve been offered a job.
We’ve heard how they’ve feared holding their partner’s hand in public in case they bump into a colleague or a student who could out them, which would see them lose their job and their livelihood. We also know that LGBT+ people already suffer worse mental health than their heterosexual and cisgendered peers, because of the stress of things like these exemptions, which mean they could be expelled from their school or fired from their workplace.
Rainbow Families Victoria have collected stories of LGBT+ families whose lives are being affected by our current discriminatory laws and have shared them with members and senators. A future stepmother of five children, who’s engaged to her same-sex partner, spoke out this week saying:
I teach at a conservative Catholic primary school. I am constantly afraid that someone will find out and that I will lose my job. I am the main income earner and my employment is incredibly important. I worry that I will lose my job. I worry that my employer won’t give me a good reference if she finds out. This could affect my future employment opportunities. I feel like a criminal and I have done nothing wrong.
For others, these discriminatory exemptions have prevented them from applying for their dream jobs. Tim Hoffmann in my home state of Victoria shared his story with The Age earlier this week:
I have a Masters in Theology and want to teach in religious schools. However, I will never apply. I have absolutely no chance as, though I’m Christian, I am an openly gay man.
It was almost a year ago that the marriage equality postal survey results came in showing that the majority of Australians supported ending the discrimination in our marriage laws and making marriage equality a reality. It was a hard-fought and, for many queer Australians, personally difficult win but it confirmed what we had known for years—that Australian people have opened their hearts and truly embraced their LGBTIQ+ family members, friends and colleagues. For years now the majority of Australians have stood side-by-side with LGBTIQ members of our community in our fight for equality and against discrimination, and on this issue it is no different. A Fairfax poll released this week showed that an overwhelming majority, 74 per cent, of Australians oppose this discrimination. I am so heartened and unsurprised that the vast majority of Australians do not support this legalised discrimination against LGBT Australians.
Our parliament must support the people we represent and fix up these discriminatory laws. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the Ruddock religious freedom review last year as parliament moved to legislate for marriage equality. It was said that he did this as a sop to the right-wing hate-filled conservatives who continue to fight against equality until the very end, but it now seems the Ruddock review has not quite turned out the way they thought. It’s only through the review’s recommendations being leaked that the Australian people have been alerted to these discriminatory exemptions that have sat within our antidiscrimination laws for many years.
This Saturday, voters in the seat of Wentworth will be going to the polls to elect their new representative to replace former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Despite the Liberals comfortably winning this seat in 2016 there is a very real chance the Liberals will lose Wentworth this Saturday, because the people of Wentworth are shocked by what this Liberal government has done—its devastating inaction on climate change, its ongoing torture of people seeking asylum and its interference with and funding cuts to the ABC. In the Liberals’ desperation to cling on in Wentworth we’ve seen them release some shocking policies in the lead-up to this Saturday, yet we are still to see Prime Minister Scott Morrison release the full report of the Ruddock review, because the Liberals are afraid of drawing more attention to their awful policies towards LGBTIQ people. Ruddock is a former Liberal government minister after all. His review quite reasonably can be seen as a reflection of where this government is currently at with regard to allowing and entrenching discrimination.
We have now heard both Labor and the Liberals speak up big over the last week about how we need to make sure that LGBT students are not discriminated against. I was pleased to hear from Minister Cormann that he is now going to move quickly to amend legislation to stop the discrimination against LGBT students. It has been wonderful to see this backflip in the Liberals’ position. It has also been wonderful to see the Labor Party come out to say that their position now is to end discrimination against students and to end discrimination against teachers and other staff. But it has only been because of the intense community pressure that both the Labor and the Liberal parties have changed their positions over the last fortnight.
So, us bringing on this debate today is a very important opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get the government and the Labor opposition on the record about ending this discrimination before the pressure comes off after the vote in Wentworth on Saturday. We heard Minister Cormann say that, yes, he was happy. The government are going to move to end discrimination against students. But when it comes to teachers and other staff, he is silent. Despite the impact that this discrimination is having on teachers and staff at schools, the government remain silent. One can only presume that their intention is to continue to prosecute the case for allowing those discriminations to continue on in our antidiscrimination laws, to allow the continuation of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers and other staff.
We’ve got the Wentworth by-election coming up, and it’s important that the voters of Wentworth know, because they overwhelmingly voted for equality and against discrimination in the marriage equality postal survey last year. Wentworth delivered an 81 per cent yes vote in the postal survey last year. So they deserve to know. Through this debate, they are able to hear where Labor and the Liberals stand before Wentworth goes to the polls this Saturday.
I’m really proud of the bill that we are debating today. It would remove exemptions not just for students at religious schools but for all teachers and staff members as well. And it would not just work to protect students, teachers and staff members on the basis of their sexuality and their sexual orientation but also on their gender identity. Trans and gender diverse people have hardly been mentioned in the public debate over the last fortnight. We must ensure that trans and gender diverse students cannot be expelled because of their gender identity and that trans and gender diverse teachers and other staff members aren’t able to be fired.
Yesterday Prime Minister Morrison said, and I quote: ‘We must act right now. We can deal with this once and for all.’ Well, Mr Prime Minister, you have an opportunity to act right now and remove this unfair discrimination once and for all. To do act now and particularly once and for all means we’ve got to remove discrimination against students but also against teachers and other staff. We need to do it now. Labor and Liberal must turn their words into action and vote for this bill, vote for our Greens bill, to protect students, teachers and other staff members from being expelled or fired by religious schools just because of who they are. So I call on both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to work with us in good faith and support this Greens bill today—no ifs, no buts. Together, we can end this unfair discrimination once and for all.

Greens say Labor and Coalition back corporate power over community rights

The Morrison Government and the Labor Party have thrown Australia under the bus in teaming up to pass the dodgy Trans-Pacific Partnership today, giving big corporations more power than elected Governments.
“Labor has abandoned its own party platform, Australian workers, our environment and our sovereignty in rolling over for the Morrison Government to pass the TPP,”  Greens trade spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“This is a deal for big corporations, at the expense of the rights of the community.
“The economic benefit to Australia from the TPP is something between nothing and a rounding error – while the cost to everyday Australians, and our environment, are huge.
“Our environmental policy limbo and action on climate change cannot be addressed without serious risk of multinational corporations suing our nation. If the US decides to re-join the costs of new cancer medications would go through the roof. And, as the deal stands, vulnerable workers from six nations will be put into jobs without offering them first to Australians looking for work.
“We cannot address the TPP’s most devastating failures – ISDS provisions and weak labour market testing – now the deal is done. Labor has squibbed the opportunity to do the right thing, and to hold the Morrison Government to account.
“We must, of course, be a trading nation, but what has happened today is chaining us to trade for the sake of multinational corporations and shareholder profits, rather than engaging in deals that help take our nation forward.”

Lambton kids link centuries through time capsule

LAMBTON’s Mia Witherdin, 4, hopes to convince onlookers at a local war memorial in 100 years’ time that coins, USB sticks and newspapers actually once served a purpose.
The items will be among a host of contemporary curiosities buried this Saturday as part of a time capsule to replace another by left by unsung heroes from the Great War a century ago.
St John’s Primary School students Remy Whitson, 9 and Elliot Guest, 9 with Mia Witherdin, 4 (middle).
“Thank you for putting that time capsule in the ground a long time ago and another one this Saturday,” says Mia, who may well live to address the 22nd century event to unearth the new capsule.
While 140 Lambton men were off fighting World War One, a number of their wives, mothers and sisters formed the Lambton Ladies Committee to raise money to pay for Lambton Park’s Memorial Gates.
Their makeshift time capsule, buried in a bottle beneath the gates a few weeks before armistice, is the only such World War One commemoration in Australia.
When recently unearthed, a newspaper reporting the declaration of war and decaying pennies were found inside.
The 100-year-old bottle was painstakingly dug up – and the new time capsule prepared – to officially salute the 30 visionary women who together mourned 27 local men who didn’t return from the war.
“Saturday’s event will be a community celebration of a resilient group of women with enough spirit and foresight to leave us a link to that disastrous time for the world and the defining event of their lives,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“Everyone in the Hunter is invited to turn out to be part of an important piece of local history.
“The City of Newcastle unanimously resolved to help excavate and replace the time capsule by supporting the project with around $60,000 in funds and in-kind support, and Ward 3 Councillors Rufo, Clausen, Winney-Baartz and I will be there on Saturday as very proud representatives of the City.”
Time-Capsule-Photo-4-inside.jpgLord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes pictured with Elder Street Early Childhood Centre students Lucas Wang, 5, and Mia Witherdin, 4. 
Descendants of the Ladies Committee will attend the celebration together with Sydney man John Estell. He will bring the engraved golden trowel his great grandfather, then the local state member, used to lay the foundation stone.
Scores of local kids – Mia among them – will also be there after receiving commemorative medallions from Hunter Development Corporation to encourage them to return in 2118.
The centenarians will then be charged with explaining the contents of the second time capsule, which was built with 21st century smarts, including high-grade stainless steel and an air filter.
“Once closed and sealed, inert argon gas will be pumped into the 26-litre box through one of two valves to avoid mould and oxidation,” City of Newcastle heritage specialist Tom Smith said. “The other one will be used to expel any impure air.”
Lambton community historian Robert Watson said archaeologists, volunteers and a stone mason recently took around nine hours to exhume the old time capsule.
“The whole excavation was a painstaking process because underneath the foundation stone was solid a block on concrete with the glass bottle inside,” he said.
“The rolled-up newspaper was pretty damp and in a bad state of decay and we could barely read anything on a penny because of the corrosion.”
The new capsule will also contain:Golden-Trowel-(1).jpg

  • A letter from Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes
  • A letter from His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley
  • A letter/document from Newcastle Museum with a contemporary interpretation of World War One
  • A letter from Terri-Lee Darcy/Auntie Phyllis to consider Aboriginal cultural heritage and stories/family experiences
  • A contribution from Lambton Jaffas Football Club
  • A contribution from Lambton Swimming Pool
  • Photo of RSL guard of honour set against backdrop of the Gates
  • Photo and names of the Newcastle City councillors
  • Cr Rufo’s Council badge
  • A copy of the invite to the event
  • A USB stick with a copy of My Country video and VR package from 2018 NAIDOC Week and another containing photos of 1918 capsule and its retrieval
  • A copy of all 54 issues of The Lambton Local
  • A copy of the names of the Anzac Ladies Club’s members
  • RSL charter
  • Sonia Hornery – RSL book
  • Photos of pre and school kids – whole of school / preschool or classes
  • St Johns photo
  • Stamps and Armistice Commemorative coins from 2018
  • Photos documenting original time capsule from International Conservation Services
  • The Story of Lambton in Lambton book by Julie Keating
  • A street map of Lambton with current lot & DPs
  • Old RSL relic items – two bullet shell cones and the Lambton-New Lambton RSL Sub- Branch Constitution, 1938.
  • Current issue of coins.
  • Program from Lizottes
  • Music from This Land

Man charged over alleged indecent assault of young employee

A man has been charged after allegedly indecently assaulting a young employee at a Hunter region take-away shop.
Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation earlier this week after receiving reports a teenage girl had been indecently assaulted while at work.
Following investigations, a 74-year-old man was arrested by detectives at a shop on Tarean Road, Karuah, just before 10am yesterday (Tuesday 16 October 2018).
He was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station and charged with four counts of indecent assault-person under 16 years.
Police will allege in court that the girl was indecently assaulted on a number of occasions while working alone with her employer at a take-away store at Karuah.
The man was refused bail and appeared at Raymond Terrace Local Court yesterday, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Tuesday 6 November 2018.
Investigations are continuing.

Greens point to Medical Crisis on Nauru

The deportation of Australia’s chief medical officer from Nauru shows the entire regime of offshore detention is crumbling, Greens Immigration spokesperson Nick McKim says.
“This is a humanitarian emergency, and Scott Morrison has lost control of his detention centres,” Senator McKim said.
“His entire offshore regime is crumbling before our eyes.”
“This deportation confirms that there is no way for Australia’s prisoners on Nauru to receive proper medical support.”
“The Greens’ legislation would require every child detained on Nauru, and their families, to be immediately brought  to Australia for the medical treatment they so desperately need.”
“Every MP – Liberal, Labor and crossbench, must act urgently to resolve this humanitarian crisis by supporting the Bill.”

238,000 Signature Petition Against Live Export tabled in Australian Senate

Australian Greens Animal Welfare Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has today tabled more than 238,000 signatures from a petition in the Australian Senate calling on the Australian Government to ban live exports. Senator Faruqi has also called on Prime Minister Morrison to allow her bill to ban the worst aspects of the live sheep trade to be debated in the House of Representatives. Her bill passed the Senate last month.
Senator Faruqi said:
“The Greens having been pushing for an end to all live export because it is inherently cruel. And we aren’t going to let this issue go away.
“I want to thank the petition organiser Lisa Margetts, the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed this petition and the many more who have taken the time to visit, ring or email their MP demanding they take action.
“A vast majority of Australians are against live export because as we see time and time again, it is a cruel trade in misery that sees thousands of animals dying in terrible conditions.
“My bill to ban the worst aspects of the live sheep trade recently passed the Senate and is sitting in the House of Representatives, ready to be voted on. But the Prime Minister is blocking it.
“Even worse, Scott Morrison is approving new shipments during the Northern Summer, exactly the conditions that killed thousands of sheep. Australians have said very clearly they do not want a repeat of the horrific scenes we saw earlier this year,” she concluded.

Greens' bill is PM's chance to 'act right now' on ending discrimination for LGBT+ students

Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice today said that voting for the Greens’ bill to end exemptions to anti-discrimination laws that allow religious schools to expel LGBT+ students is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s chance to “act right now” and deal with this issue “once and for all”.
The Greens introduced the Discrimination Free Schools Bill 2018 into the Senate this afternoon.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison is right: we need to ‘act right now’ to end this unfair discrimination while both parties are feeling the pressure in Wentworth,” Senator Rice said.
“Under intense community pressure, both the Labor and Liberal parties have changed their position and are now talking big about removing discrimination against LGBT+ students and teachers from our laws.
“It’s time they turn their words into action and vote for the Greens’ bill to protect students, teachers and staff members from being expelled or fired by religious schools because of who they are.
“If we delay, we risk Scott Morrison caving into the conservatives and Bill Shorten selling out LGBT+ Australians once again after the Wentworth by-election and missing our opportunity to end this legal discrimination ‘once and for all’.
The Greens took removing these exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation for religious schools and organisations to the 2016 Federal Election.

Australia Day Awards now open online

Nominations have opened for Newcastle’s 2019 Australia Day Awards.
Lord Mayor of Newcastle Nuatali Nelmes said the city was looking for inspirational role models to be nominated for Newcastle’s Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Group of the Year.
Traditional hard-copy nomination forms can be downloaded from City of Newcastle’s website and can also be completed and lodged online.
Mark Hughes receiving this year’s Citizenship Of The Year Award from The Lord Mayor.
“These awards recognise an individual’s or group’s outstanding achievements and contribution to the community for the past year,” Cr Nelmes said.
“This could be in the through arts, science, engineering, sports or any other field of endeavour. The aim is not just to award people with high profiles – we also want to hear about the quiet achievers who work tirelessly and often thanklessly to make the world a better place.”
Our current Citizen of the Year is Mark Hughes, whose Foundation has raised more than $1.75 million for brain cancer research.
Previous winners include Newcastle refugee advocate Sister Diana Santleben,  legendary athlete Kurt Fearnley, and former University of Newcastle Chancellor and clinical psychologist Professor Trevor Waring.
“Nominating someone is simple, so we want to see as many worthy people as possible nominated and considered for these annual awards,” Cr Nelmes said.
Nominees must be residents of the Newcastle local government area, except for Community Group of the Year which can be from outside the LGA in exceptional circumstances.
They must be Australian citizens and must be turning at least 16 years of age in 2018.
A panel of judges will consider each nomination on its merits, with the awards presented at a ceremony on Australia Day, 2019.
To access nomination forms go to Australia Day nominations

Man charged over allegedly grooming child online and meeting for sex

A man has been charged after allegedly grooming a teenage girl online and meeting with her for sex in the Hunter region.
Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation following reports a 15-year-old girl had been sexually and indecently assaulted by a man she met online last month.
Police will allege in court that the pair met on a social media application designed for teenagers, where the man purported to be aged 17. They engaged in conversation before arranging to meet in person.
The man later advised he was aged 27, and the pair met in the Newcastle area on Saturday 29 September 2018, and allegedly had sex.
The incident was reported to local police last week before being referred to the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad for further investigation.
Following inquiries, detectives arrested a 35-year-old man at a home unit at Valentine about 7am yesterday (Monday 15 October 2018).
Shortly after the arrest, investigators executed a search warrant at the unit, before executing a crime scene warrant at a home at Whitebridge.
During the searches, police seized a number of items relevant to the investigation.
The man was taken to Belmont Police Station and charged with nine counts of sexual intercourse with person aged 14-16, two counts of indecent assault-person under 16, groom child for unlawful sexual activity, meet with child groomed for sexual activity, and use carriage service to plan for sex-person under 16.
He was refused bail and appeared at Toronto Local Court yesterday, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Tuesday 30 October 2018.
Meanwhile, police are urging parents and carers to speak with their children about staying safe online.
Safe internet use – tips for parents:
• Be aware of how much time your child spends on the internet.
• Spend time talking to your child about the dangers associated with online conversations, particularly when communicating with someone that they have only ever met online.
• Spend time exploring the internet with your children and let them teach you about their favourite websites and applications.
• Keep computers or internet-enabled devices in a room the whole family can access, not in your child’s bedroom; monitor internet access on those devices.
• Consider installing filtering and/or computer blocking software provided by your internet service provider.
• Ensure you are able to access your child’s email and social media accounts and randomly check the contents.
• Check your phone bill for unusual outgoing calls and consider using ‘caller ID’ to identify incoming calls.
• Consult your telephone company for options designed to ensure privacy and security.
• Enquire with your child’s school, public library, and places they frequent to find out what internet safety measures they have in place.
• Information on internet safety is available on the NSW Police website at: http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/safety_and_prevention/safe_and_secure/online_safety
Tips for children:
• Do not send a picture of yourself to anyone you don’t know and never place a full profile and picture anywhere on the internet.
• Never give out your personal information, including full name, home address, phone number or school, over the internet.
• Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone that you have only ever chatted with on the internet.
• Tell your parents or another adult you know of any contact that makes you feel uncomfortable.
• Think carefully before uploading or sending images or videos to people over the internet. Once you press ‘send’ it’s definite and final – you can’t get it back or take it down.
• Information on youth issues, including online safety is available on the NSW Police website at:
More information and educational packages for parents and children are available from ThinkUKnow, a multi-agency program designed to educate and promote cyber safety: https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/
The Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad is comprised of detectives who are specially trained to investigate matters against children and adults, including sexual assault, serious physical abuse, and extreme cases of neglect.
Anyone with concerns about suspected child abuse or exploitation should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au
Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. People should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.


New laws will make it easier for NSW Police to tackle organised crime during raids on outlaw motorcycle gang clubhouses, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Attorney General Mark Speakman and Police Minister Troy Grant announced today.
“NSW has the toughest organised crime laws in Australia and our Police will now be better equipped than ever to tackle dangerous outlaw bikie gangs,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will not tolerate criminal behaviour which undermines community safety.”
Under the new laws, Police executing a warrant on outlaw bikie clubhouses will have clear powers to:

  • search anyone on site;
  • compel any person to reveal their name and address; and
  • compel people present at the venue to move on.

Mr Grant said the reforms, which will help police identify suspects, gather evidence and seize dangerous firearms and weapons, are part of the NSW Government’s unrelenting crackdown on organised criminal gang activity.
“There is no room for outlaw bikies in NSW, who will continue to be hounded by Police until they leave the state or find a new, legal hobby,” Mr Grant said.
The legislative amendments, to be introduced into the Parliament in coming weeks, respond to the Ombudsman’s report on the Restricted Premises Act.
The NSW Government has accepted all the Ombudsman’s recommendations which will give Police greater clarity about their powers and responsibilities when raiding outlaw bikie gang clubhouses,” Mr Speakman said.
Police have been using the powers provided under the Restricted Premises Act, which was formerly known as the Disorderly Houses Act, to target outlaw bikie clubhouses for the past decade.
These powers were strengthened in 2013 to enhance the ability of Police to combat firearms-related and organised crime, with a focus on the activities of outlaw bikie gangs.
These powers are on top of a range of other tough measures available to Police to target outlaw bikie crime, including those set out below.

  • Serious Crime Prevention Orders – to impose restrictions on people to disrupt their involvement in serious criminal activity.
  • Public Safety Orders – to prevent people from attending places or events where they are expected to engage in violence or present a serious threat to public safety or security.
  • Consorting laws – which carry a maximum three year prison term for people who continue to associate with convicted offenders after receiving an official warning from Police.
  • Unexplained wealth laws – which place a burden on suspects to prove their income was lawfully acquired.
  • Firearm Prohibition Orders – allowing Police to search, without warrant, premises or vehicles occupied by anyone subjected to the order to ensure compliance.

“Strike Force Raptor has dismantled numerous bikie-led drug and organised crime operations and is continuing to crack down on outlaw bikie violence,” said Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
In April 2018, NSW Police successfully applied to the Supreme Court for Serious Crime Prevention Orders against 10 high-ranking members of the Finks and Nomads outlaw motorcycle gangs who were linked to gang-related violence across the Lower Hunter region.