Labor rejects Scott Morrison’s school discrimination ultimatum

Labor rejects Scott Morrison’s school discrimination ultimatum
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Photo by G20 Argentina via Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has delivered an ultimatum to Labor on the signing of a bill to ban religious schooling institutions from discriminating against LGBTI students.

Telling the Federal Opposition to either support the Government’s bill or hold an internal conscience vote on the matter, Scott Morrison has been accused of “weaponising” the issue by Labor leaders.

Both Labor and the Coalition Government have legislation before Parliament designed to ban religious schools from rejecting students based on their sexuality. While Labor has said that it principally supports the Government’s version, it has expressed concerns that the wording of the amendment invites other forms of discrimination.

Regarding the Oppositions’ version of the amendment, the Senate agreed that it would defer debate on the bill until 2019. Mathias Cormann, the Government’s Senate leader, said that both parties needed more time to review the issue.

However, shortly after that Senate announcement, the Prime Minister made one of his own. He urged Labor to fall in line with the Government’s amendment so that the issue could be resolved before Parliament retired until 2019.

He said that he was “prepared to move that bill in the House today” and that he would “suspend standing order to bring that vote on”.

He added that if Opposition leader Bill Shorten and his party were willing to support the bill that “we will vote for it today and we will get this done”.

He then said that he was prepared to hold a conscience vote on the issue and invited Labor to do the same.

However, Labor leaders quickly turned on the Prime Minister, saying that his offer to hold a conscience vote was not genuine. Scott Morrison was criticised for trying to oversimplify the issue and dishonestly paint Labor as unwilling to back common-sense legislation.

When the issue of LGBTI discrimination in religious schools was brought about by the controversial Ruddock review, which was prompted by the postal plebiscite that resulted in same-sex marriage being legalised in Australia, the Prime Minister was hesitant to address the issue before eventually denouncing the idea of allowing any form of theology based discrimination.