Submission on the Exposure Draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012
Freedom 4 Faith (“F4F”) is a new body representing various Christian Churches and faith- based organisations in relation to issues of religious freedom. The leadership team for F4F includes senior Christian leaders from the Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Seventh-day Adventist traditions, as well as legal experts.
F4F has concerns about a number of aspects of the Bill, in particular the definition of unfavourable treatment, the application of the law to volunteers, the breadth of the definition of ‘public life’, the lack of reference to human rights other than the right to non- discrimination, and the continuing marginalisation of the rights to religious freedom and freedom of association as exceptions to otherwise general rules. F4F considers that the Bill, in its present form, cannot be reconciled with Australia’s obligations under international human rights law.
The effect of the various changes to the law, taken together, is a massive extension in the regulatory reach of federal anti-discrimination law and a significant reduction in the threshold for making complaints. The proposed changes to the law are likely to have an adverse impact upon churches and other faith-based organisations – in particular for small not-for-profit organisations – by increasing costs. Many of these are charities, and the impact of an increased regulatory burden will be less money for front-line services. The Bill will also have an adverse impact on volunteer activity.
In this submission, F4F proposes various amendments to address these issues.