By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — The Queensland government's Anti-Discrimination Bill poses a threat to all teachers with alternative lifestyles, not just homosexual teachers, according to the Queensland Teachers Union.
"So far the concentration of opposition to the bill has been on the threat to homosexual teachers", QTU acting president Shane Groth said on November 29.
"We see it as wider than that. It may well be that it applies to teachers in a de facto relationship, those who have married a divorced person or those who live in a communal setting."
Groth said the three unions covering people who worked with children — the QTU, the Queensland Independent Education Union and the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union — were united in their opposition to the bill.
"On the one hand, the bill makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of lawful sexual activity but, on the other, clause 28 specifically allows this type of discrimination in the case of people working with children", he said.
"This means teachers, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual, could be dismissed or simply not employed in the first place because of their private lifestyles.
"All the employer would have to do is say he or she believed the teacher's activities threatened the children's moral well-being."
He said the education system already supplied ample protection for minors before the advent of the new bill.
The Anti-Discrimination Bill, tabled in the Queensland parliament on November 26, generally mirrors federal legislation in prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital or parental status, pregnancy, age, race, impairment including AIDS where the disease is not a health risk, religion, political belief, trade union activity or lawful sexual activity.
However, "An organisation caring for minors will be able to discriminate against a person [in employment] on the grounds of lawful sexual activity if they choose to", Attorney-General Deane Wells admitted.
Queensland Association for Gay and Lesbian Rights Craig Patterson explained: "It means a gay or lesbian teacher is going to be permanently under a cloud for the period of his or her employment.
"The government is to be congratulated on bringing anti-discrimination legislation to Queensland, but the bill is like a car with three round wheels and one square wheel", Patterson said.