Schools 'could turn away gay kids, teachers'

Australian PM Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended leaked proposals to let religious schools discriminate against gay students, saying that the proposals were already "existing law" in some states.

Fairfax Media, which obtained a copy of the report, said it proposed that religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers.

A report from an independent review of religious freedoms has been sitting with the government for five months, but has not been publicly released.

There was also a suggestion that religious-based schools should have discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

Mr Morrison - a devout Christian - previously said he wanted to take a "proactive approach" to protecting religious freedom.

The review was ordered after last year's same-sex marriage victory to placate conservative MPs who anxious the change would reduce people's ability to practise their religion freely.

Veteran Liberal MP Philip Ruddock chaired the panel, which delivered its findings to the Federal Government in May.

The existing federal law does say it is not "unlawful" to discriminate against someone for their sexuality, gender identity or pregnancy "in connection with the provision of education".

The panel supported the right for religious groups and schools to choose students and congregants in accordance with their beliefs.

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Schools would have to make their policies on gay staff and students public, the proposals reportedly said.

Mr Morrison stressed the review had not yet been considered by Cabinet.

Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek said her party was fundamentally opposed to increasing discrimination.

"It's hard to comment without seeing the report, but our general proposition is Labour doesn't expand discrimination opportunities", Ms Plibersek said.

"I'm all for religious freedoms, but I can't respect institutions, particularly schools, that turn away children simply because they're gay", says Ben Fordham.

"Schools can not discriminate against a child or a teacher on the grounds of sexuality".

However, a long-awaited review of whether religious freedoms are adequately protected in Australia has recommended that exemptions for religious schools be trimmed.

Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality by religious schools is allowed in most states including New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia although the terms of exemptions vary in each jurisdiction.

"This idea that there is discrimination in Australian religious schools is false".

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