NSWJBD at a public hearing

October 26, 2020 by J-Wire
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The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies attended the Joint Select Committee on the NSW Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 began its public hearings at Parliament House in Macquarie Street on Friday.

Peter Wertheim answers questions  Photo: Screenshot

Chaired by the Hon. Gabrielle Upton MP, the Committee consists of 14 NSW State MPs from the Liberal, National, Labor, Greens and One Nation parties and two Independents.

The NSWJBD, which provided a written submission to the Committee in August, was represented at the hearings by Peter Wertheim, the co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), and a former President of the Board.

In essence, the Bill seeks to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of their religion, in the provision of goods and services, employment, club membership and a range of other contexts.

In explaining the need for such legislation from the Jewish community’s perspective, the Board’s submission noted incidents recorded in the ECAJ’s annual reports on antisemitism in Australia, which have involved:

  • Refusal of a business to supply a good or service to a person who is, or is believed to be, Jewish;
  • Antisemitic verbal abuse and bullying of Jewish students as young as five years old at public and private schools, resulting in their departure from those schools;
  • Victimisation of employees in the workplace because they are, or are believed to be, Jewish, with employers unwilling to intervene, and resulting in the employees being forced or pressured out of their employment; and
  • Jewish university students being confronted in class with anti-Jewish statements, including statements which deny, relativise or trivialise the Holocaust, by lecturers and tutors.

Peter Wertheim explained that, depending on the particular facts in each case, these incidents are not always covered adequately or at all by existing legal prohibitions against racial discrimination.

Over a session lasting more than one hour, Mr Wertheim fielded questions about the Board’s submission from Committee members.  The matters covered included:

  • The need to continue to allow faith-based organisations, especially in minority communities, the freedom to give preference to members of their own faith community in providing goods or services in order to meet the special religious or cultural needs of such persons, or to overcome prejudice and disadvantage;
  • The need to continue to allow employers and employees the freedom to agree to placing constraints on the employee’s behaviour outside the work context if the relevant contract of employment sets out the constraints clearly and explicitly, there is no coercion of any kind, and the constraints are necessary for the effective performance of the duties for which the employee is employed.
  • The need for the Bill to be amended to make it explicit that other parts of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act will have priority, especially the existing anti-vilification provisions.

The Inquiry continues this week.

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