Religious exemptions to go – Labor bills will follow the ALRC recommendations

Senator Michaelia cash at Regents Park School

Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash told a rally of Christian Schools supporters last night that new laws proposed by the Albanese government will adopt the Australian Law Reform Commission recommendations to reduce protections for schools.

“The government has not released, as you know, that legislation,” Senator Cash told a “Town Hall” meeting organised by a coalition of Christian school networks at Regents Park Christian School in Western Sydney. “I do, however, have a copy of that legislation, but I have it under very strict conditions that I’m not allowed to distribute the legislation; otherwise, I would’ve brought it here tonight and had it up on screen for you.

Senator Cash spoke of her work with the leaders of the Christian School movements who were present at the Town Hall: Mark Spencer of Christian Schools Australia, Vanessa Cheng of  Australian Association of Christian Schools, and Alistair Macpherson of Associated Christian Schools.

“I have been working with them, and we have gone through the legislation together, and it’s because we’ve been able to go through the legislation together that we’re having these town halls across Australia because the legislation as it stands indeed does pick up the recommendations made by the Australian Law of Reform Commission.”

Threats to the future of Christian schools from these new laws were outlined by Alistair MacPherson, Associated Christian Schools Executive Director: Public Policy & Advocacy. “Firstly, they limit the ability of the school to actively choose or to prefer a person of the living faith when they’re hiring staff.

“Secondly, they control what aspects of traditional Christian teaching may be shared with students. So while, we believe that faith is for the whole of life, teachers may no longer be free to share these traditional teachings of faith in every part of our lives. 

“These laws will then restrict a school being able to manage a staff member who says they hold the Christian faith of the school community but don’t live according to that faith in their personal life.”

Senator Cash added two more. A draft Productivity Commission report that recommends the removal of DGR (tax deductibility status) of fundraising for independent schools has been something the Christian Schools movement has been lobbying on. Cash also added The Cost Protection Bill, which has passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate. “If there’s a [discrimination] claim, it’s relevant to whether or not your school is going to actually be paying any of the costs of the litigation,” Cash said. “Because what the cost protection bill does quite deliberately is incentivise claims to be brought in relation to discrimination. But worse than that in 2024, you don’t need to incentivise too many people. Unfortunately that’s the litigious society we live in. But worse than that, 99% of the time it is the school that’s going to be picking up the costs.”

Speaking of her school experience with the Presentation Sisters in Perth, Cash recalled: “My parents made a choice. It was their choice, not the government’s choice, their choice to send their children to a faith-based school, a Catholic school. Why? Because they wanted us educated in the Christian faith. And yes, they did want the teachers at that school to live in accordance with the doctrines, the tenants, and the beliefs of Christianity. Again, the legislation that we currently have, and I pray to God the government changes this, I really do. But the legislation that we currently have denies you as parents that choice.”

Senator Sarah Henderson, the Shadow Education Minister was clear that the Christian School advocates at the gathering face a battle. “This is a very big fight and the reason your voice matters so much is because, regrettably, on the bills that only Michaelia has seen, we know take our schools of faith backwards and not forwards. Regrettably, the government has the numbers in the House of Representatives and combined with the greens and one or two senators on the cross bench, it has the numbers in the Senate. So this government has the capacity to push this legislation through the Parliament and that is really scary.”

The Regents Park “Town Hall” event was the second of a series of Town Hall events around the Country, following a Brisbane launch a few days ago. the next events are:

  • Perth (8 May at Swan Christian College)
  • Launceston (21 May at Launceston Christian School)
  • Melbourne (22 May at Waverley Christian College)

Details of the campaign can be found at