On 6 December 2018, the Senate referred the Sex Discrimination Amendment
(Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 (the bill) and all
circulated amendments to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 11 February
On 11 February 2019 the committee tabled a progress report seeking an
extension of time to report until 12 February 2019.
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were made available on the committee's website.
The committee also contacted a number of organisations inviting submissions to
the inquiry. Submissions were received from 1092 organisations and individuals,
as detailed at Appendix 1.
The committee also received over 9,000 items of correspondence, with
each of these items based on one of 14 distinct form letters. All of these
items of correspondence opposed the bill and expressed the need for greater
protections for religious freedom. A list of the letters and the total number
received for each is also available at Appendix 1. In addition, the committee
received 45 items of correspondence, which although not directly addressing the
bill, made general comments about religious freedom or raised other issues of
The committee held two public hearings:
6 February 2019 in Brisbane; and
7 February 2019 in Sydney.
The witness lists for these hearings can be found at Appendix 2.
Compatibility with human rights
The statement of compatibility with human rights for the bill stated
that it is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared
in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights
(Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011. 
The statement noted:
The bill is compatible with human rights because it advances
the protection of human rights, particularly the right to equality and
non-discrimination. To the extent that it may limit rights, those limitations
are reasonable, necessary and proportionate.
Scrutiny of Bills Committee
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills considered the
bill in its Scrutiny Digest 15 of 2018 and made no comment.
The explanatory memorandum for the bill stated that the bill will have
no financial impact.
Structure of the report
In November 2018, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References
Committee conducted an inquiry into the legislation exemptions that allow
faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers
and staff. The resulting report, tabled on 26 November 2018, contained an
in-depth analysis of a number of relevant matters, including:
the broader human rights and constitutional context in which the
public discussion about discrimination by faith-based educational institutions
has taken place;
the use of the legislative exemptions in the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984 by faith-based educational institutions;
arguments for and against removing the existing legislative
whether the application of the exemptions for students should
differ from their application to teachers; and
potential options for reform. 
Although some of these issues remain relevant to this legislation
inquiry, this report does not propose to traverse the same ground as the
references inquiry; rather, it will focus specifically on the bill and
Chapter 2 contains a brief outline of the current legal framework, as
well as an overview of the bill and all circulated amendments.
Chapter 3 explores the key issues about the bill and amendments raised
in evidence. It then sets out the committee's views and recommendations.
The committee thanks those organisations and individuals that
contributed to this inquiry by preparing written submissions and given evidence
at the public hearings.
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