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Calls to address existing LGBTQ vilification as Labor drafts new hate speech laws

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Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is drafting a new hate speech bill that would impose criminal, rather than civil, penalties for serious cases of vilification based on a person’s race, sexuality, gender, religion, or disability.

The bill will strengthen existing laws to protect minority groups in Australia, but LGBTIQ+ advocacy groups say that the reports leave many key questions for the LGBTIQA+ community unaddressed.

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said, “With attacks on the rise, especially against trans people, there is an urgent need for national laws to protect LGBTIQ+ communities from hate speech and vilification.”

Any measure that attempts to address instances of discrimination is welcome, she continued, but the federal government needs to address existing gaps in the laws that allow religious schools to discriminate against staff and students.

“Labor made this commitment at the last election and it’s time to introduce the bills without further delay,” she emphasised.

Rodney Croome, spokesman for Just.Equal Australia, said, “We welcome the reports that hate crime penalties will be extended, but the devil will be in the detail.”

“Will vilification on the grounds of gender identity and sex characteristics be included and will the kind of protection currently provided under 18c be made available for LGBTIQA+ people?”

“Will the Government take this opportunity to enact its promise to change the attribute of ‘intersex status’ to ‘sex characteristics’ in discrimination law, thereby providing stronger protections for intersex people?”

“Will the Government begin to speak out against rising LGBTIQA+ hate given it has said nothing about attacks against us over the last twelve months?”

“The Albanese government has gone missing in action”

The new bill, which is still being finalised, comes as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has escalated concerns about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the country.

The Attorney-General told The Sydney Morning Herald, “The Albanese government is committed to promoting and supporting respect, acceptance and understanding across the Australian community.”

“We are committed to protecting the community from those who promote extremism, hatred or seek to incite violence.”

The state government introduced in November last year a law that prohibits vilification on the grounds of religious belief, affiliation or activity.

The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Act 2023 amended the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 and was modelled on existing provisions that made vilification unlawful on the grounds of race, homosexuality, transgender status and HIV/AIDS status.

At the time, Lydia Shelly, President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), told City Hub that the amendments were “a missed opportunity.”

“We are very disappointed that the government has rammed through the amendments to essentially protect, or favour, religious vilification over other forms of vilification, and it will still leave people essentially unprotected,” she said.

“For example, trans people, people with intersex variations, sex workers. This potentially allows a pathway for religious institutions to potentially discriminate against people from the queer community.”

Last week, Just.Equal Australia reignited calls for the federal government to act, saying they have not said or done anything in response to ant-LGBTIQA violence and vilification since World Pride in March 2023.

“LGBTIQA+ Australians are experiencing an exponential increase in political vilification and violence and the Albanese Government has gone missing in action,” said their spokesperson, Rodney Croome.

“The longer the Albanese Government drags its feet on this issue the stronger message to those who hate us or would discriminate against us that we are legitimate targets.”


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