Reflecting the diversity of the Australian workforce, the union movement includes people from all backgrounds and walks of life, including young people, members of the LGBTIQ+ community, First Nations workers, people with disability, and workers from religiously, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Over 50% of Australian union members are women. Australian unions have a long and proud history of fighting for workplaces free from racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination and prejudice, and standing up for justice, safety, respect and equality for all workers.

The Australian union movement has a significant interest in the effectiveness of Australia’s anti-discrimination and human rights framework. Since the commencement of anti-discrimination laws, the majority of complaints have related to employment. This is because work is absolutely central to human dignity and our ability to live a decent life. The significant power imbalance between employers and workers means that workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination and other human rights abuses.  

On 26 November 2021, the Attorney-General referred the following Bills to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights for inquiry and report by 4 February 2022:

  • The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 (RDB)
  • The Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021
  • The Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (HRLAB)]

The ACTU has grave concerns that aspects of this proposed legislation will increase discrimination against workers, reduce job security, wind back hard-fought workplace rights and protections, and undermine psychological health and safety at work. This submission focuses primarily on the RDB, but also makes some comments on the HRLAB. A number of our affiliates have also made submissions which detail the negative impact of aspects of the RDB on their members, including in the health, education and community sectors, which we endorse and draw to the Committee’s attention.