Australia

‘Now he’s gone’: Labor MP reveals family tragedy in speech against amended religious discrimination bill

“He was a beautiful, creative, courageous young man. He was loved and accepted by his parents, by his family by his friends and community.’

Mr Jones said his parents were in “anguish” over the loss of his young nephew who had been struggling with his mental health.

“Now he’s gone,” he said.

“We’re no longer going to be able to love and support him on his journey through life clearly the love and acceptance of his family and friends were not enough.”

Mr Jones brought up the family tragedy during a debate over the government’s amendments to the religious discrimination bill.

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Religious schools will be prevented from expelling gay and lesbian school students due to their sexual orientation but trans students could still be expelled on the basis of their gender identity under an amended version of the bill.

Mr Jones said his own 14-year-old son is a gifted makeup artist and clothing designer who moves “seamlessly between the wardrobes of men and women”.

He urged the prime minister and members of parliament to “put themselves in the shoes of the parents or the heels of their kids as they step out in public.”

“What message do we want this parliament to send to these kids?” he said.

“Are they as loved and cherished and respected as any other kid? Surely we’re not saying to them ‘it’s okay to be gay, just so long as we don’t see it?

“Surely we can do better than that.”

Labor MP reveals family tragedy in speech


Mr Jones did not call for the proposed religious discrimination bill to be scrapped, but said it should not cause damage or harm to people in the name of religious freedom.

“Let’s get this done but let’s do it properly,” he said.

“Surely it is not beyond the wit and wisdom and decency of every member in this place to get this done properly.”

‘State-sanctioned discrimination’

Mr Jones’ speech came after Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer expressed concern the bill would override state anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTIQ+ students.

“Tasmania has very strong anti-discrimination laws and as a Tasmanian, I know they have been very hard-fought laws,” she told the ABC.

“We should do what we can to protect them and to continue to not discriminate or not allow discrimination against anyone on the basis of any attribute.”

Advocates have also ramped up their calls for the entire bill to be scrapped.

Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe on Tuesday said the bill amounted to “state-sanctioned discrimination”.

“It’s being considered that trans is not classified in that category as well … when you look at some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in this country, this is a group of people that we should be protecting,” the LGBTIQ+ advocate told reporters in Canberra.

“It becomes state-sanctioned discrimination to gain rights for one group of people, whilst excluding another group of people.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week an amendment would be added to protect LGBTIQ+ students from being expelled from religious schools based on their gender or sexuality.

That came after a national furore caused by an enrolment contract at Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College that required parents to sign a statement condemning homosexuality. The policy has since been scrapped and the college’s principal has stepped aside.

Mr Morrison said on Monday he would continue to work to address the concerns raised within Liberal ranks about the bill. 

When quizzed on the latest amendments to the bill, Labor’s Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said he had not yet “seen the final amendments”. 

But Mr Burke said that Prime Minister Scott Morrison must keep his word if he has stated that discrimination against students is not tolerated. 

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“The prime minister previously said he would end discrimination for all students and he should be true to his word on that,” he said. 

“I’m proposing to put forward an amendment to change that [Sex Discrimination Act] in good faith and because I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Monday.

“That, I think, goes well together with the religious discrimination bill which I hope and certainly intend to become an act in the near future.”

With additional reporting by AAP.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit lifeline.org.au or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.

LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visit qlife.org.auReachOut.com also has a list of support services. Intersex Australians seeking support can visit Intersex Peer Support Australia at isupport.org.au. 

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