Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Bill 2023

The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Bill 2023 was introduced to parliament this week. The Bi resolves to amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to make it unlawful to vilify a person or group of persons based on the person’s or group’s religious belief or affiliation or engagement in religious activity.

Currently, there is no legal protection against religion-based discrimination in New South Wales. The Bill introduces protections consistent with those against vilification on the grounds of race, sexuality, transgender status and HIV/AIDS status under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 and would bring New South Wales in line with several other jurisdictions in Australia including Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

The Bill proposes the insertion of Part 4BA into the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to make it unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for or severe ridicule of a person, or group of persons, on the ground the person, or group (a) has, or does not have, a religious belief or affiliation, or (b) engages, or does not engage, in religious activity.

Under proposed section 49ZE(2), the following would not be deemed unlawful:

  1. A fair report of an unlawful public act,
  2. A communication or the distribution or dissemination of any matter on an occasion that would be subject to a defence of absolute privilege in proceedings for defamation,
  3. A public act, done reasonably and in good faith, for a purpose in the public interest, including academic, artistic, scientific, research or religious discussion or instruction.

Attempts have been made at both federal and state levels to make religion-based vilification unlawful.

Quotes attributable to Member for Bankstown, Jihad Dib:

“Legal protections for people experiencing religion-based vilification are long overdue and would be vehemently welcomed in my electorate of Bankstown, which is home to various communities of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds,” Minister Dib said.

“As a person of faith myself, this bill carries immense personal significance, and I know many victims of religious discrimination who would have benefited from the protections it poses had action been taken earlier across all religions.

“I have witnessed several religious-based attacks, including on my own mother who had her hijab ripped off in a shopping centre. We live in a wonderful, multicultural nation that benefits from diversity and where the majority of people are respectful. I hope this legislation doesn’t need to be used, but having it in place is an invaluable safety net for all members of society, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“This bill is about recognising the variety of faiths followed in Australia, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity and many more, and embracing the diversity that underpins and enriches many of our communities such as those in Bankstown.”