Scott Morrison’s controversial religious discrimination bill has been passed by the House – but that isn’t the end of the drama. Far from it.
Welcome to our live coverage of Australian politics. We’re all tired and quite ready for the week to end – particularly our politicians, who just pulled an all nighter. Alas, time remains.
Not much time though. This the last day of the parliamentary sitting week, and it’s the last time the Senate will sit before the end of March, so if the government wants to get anything done, it needs to move fast.
On that note, everyone stayed up late last night to deal with Scott Morrison’s religious discrimination bill. The House eventually passed it just before 5am, after five Liberal MPs crossed the floor to support one of Labor’s amendments.
The bill will now be considered by the Senate, where the government will need to obtain support from either Labor or the crossbench.
Read on for the latest news.
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Albanese: Labor will ‘pursue further amendments’
Labor leader Anthony Albanese held a press conference earlier to talk up the amendment his party managed to pass, with help from the crossbench and five Liberal MPs, to provide more protection for LGBTQ students.
“We support the removal or the extension of any discrimination legislation to cover discrimination on the basis of religion, or on the basis of faith, but we don’t believe that should be at a cost of increasing discrimination against other groups,” he said.
“In particular, we were concerned about the impact against students who may be struggling with their gender identity, or who have a sexual orientation which they are coming to terms with, and the pressure on a young person at that time should be respected.
“Labor believes very clearly that we need to respect every child for who they are. That is a fundamental principle we took into the parliament and were determined to pursue.
“The amendment carried will prohibit schools discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship, or marital status. That makes an enormous difference.”
Mr Albanese accused the Prime Minister of going back on his word, citing a letter Scott Morrison wrote late last year.
“The Prime Minister wrote to me in December and said that there’s no place in our education system for any form of discrimination against a student on the basis of their sexuality or their gender identity,” he said.
“Had the legislation passed without this significant amendment, against the government’s wishes, it wouldn’t have fulfilled that commitment.
“And then, when the amendment was carried, the government, in an act of extraordinary petulance, voted against their own legislation.”
OK, you get it, he’s happy about the amendment.
“You have conceded that this legislation is bad legislation and that it could have been better. What do you say to Australians who are waking up to see that Labor has ultimately allowed it to pass through the House?” a reporter asked Mr Albanese.
“We fixed the major issue that was raised,” he replied.
“Had we simply said, ‘We’re just voting against that legislation,’ and not tried to improve it, that would not have occurred, and the legislation would have passed without amendment.
“As a direct result of the position that we took, this bill has been improved.”
Mr Albanese said Labor would pursue “further amendments” in the Senate, alluding to the ones that failed in the House. Those amendments would change the statements of belief clause and ban discrimination on the basis of religion by aged service providers.
House passes discrimination bill after marathon debate
The religious discrimination bill Scott Morrison has been pushing for was passed by the House of Representatives a bit before 5am this morning after MPs debated all night.
But it’s not all good news for the Prime Minister. Labor, the crossbench and five Liberal MPs joined forces to pass an amendment against the government’s wishes, expanding a provision preventing schools from expelling students for being gay to protect transgender kids as well.
The five Liberals who crossed the floor were Bridget Archer, Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Fiona Martin and Katie Allen.
“This has been one of the most difficult weeks of my time in parliament,” Mr Zimmerman told the House, explaining his stance.
“I cannot support a situation where we solve a problem for one community but in fact enhance a problem for another (transgender students).
“If we solve one problem and not another, by omission we are sending a message to those people in the transgender community.”
Another proposed amendment to scrap the statements of belief clause – which protects religious statements even if they offend, insult or humiliate others – was narrowly defeated after the Speaker, Andrew Wallace, was forced to cast a deciding vote.
Now the legislation, in its amended form, will head to the Senate, where the government’s numbers are weaker.