Religious discrimination bill compromises Australia's 'fair go': Ian Thorpe

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In 2017, Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe came to Canberra to champion the cause of marriage equality ahead of the historic parliamentary vote.

Just over two years later, he is back in Canberra on a very different mission. This time, he wants to stop a vote.

Olympic champion is urging the Morrison government to scrap its religious discrimination bill.

Olympic champion is urging the Morrison government to scrap its religious discrimination bill. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The Olympic gold medallist visited MPs from across Parliament on Thursday, urging them to scrap proposed religious discrimination laws because, he says, it will have a "huge impact on the LGBTIQ community in particular".

"I believe in an Australia that has a sense of a fair go," he said on Thursday.

"And this bill certainly doesn't do that."

Mr Thorpe has joined the Equality Australia campaign against the bill, which says the "statement of belief" provisions in the draft bill will open the door to discrimination against women, people with disability and LGBTIQ Australians.  It is also concerned the bill will override existing anti-discrimination protections.

Equality Australia also says conscientious objection provisions in the bill will compromise access to  healthcare, by making it "harder" to ensure that doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and psychologists do not unreasonably refuse treatment to people on religious grounds.

Mr Thorpe said many different groups with an interest in the draft religious discrimination laws believe "no bill is better than a bad bill".

"It is something that we'd be prepared to work on, but I think at this stage my preference would be this was scrapped."

Chief executive Anne Brown said she was sorry she couldn't be in Canberra with Thorpe "under happier circumstances".

The Olympic legend says the bill, if passed, would have an adverse impact on the gay and lesbian community.

The Olympic legend says the bill, if passed, would have an adverse impact on the gay and lesbian community.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

"We're here today with a simple message to the government -  that the religious discrimination bill will hurt Australians."

Attorney-General Christian Porter is conducting a third round of consultations on the bill, which is yet to be introduced to Parliament.

Earlier this month, in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, he said the religious discrimination bill would be a "powerful shield for people of all faiths who would otherwise have no avenue of redress when they were discriminated against on the basis of religion".

But he said people would only be protected if they "speak in good faith".