The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has continued to voice its concerns about the potential adverse impact of the Religious Discrimination Bill on the medical profession and patient care.
In December 2021, the AMA provided submissions to both the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Inquiry into the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 as well as the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s Inquiry into the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021.
AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, also appeared at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’ public hearing on 13 January 2022.
The AMA’s submissions focussed on whether the Bill reflected the AMA’s recommendations made in relation to the first and second exposure drafts of the Bill from 2019.
Although the AMA welcomed the removal of contentious provisions in relation to conscientious objection by health practitioners (a major concern arising from the exposure drafts), the Bill did not satisfactorily address the majority of the AMA’s earlier recommendations, meaning the legislation maintains the potential to impact adversely on the medical profession and patient care.
The AMA’s submissions emphasised the following points:
- the Bill must maintain the level of protection offered by existing State and Territory anti-discrimination laws;
- provisions allowing religious hospitals and aged care facilities to make faith-based decisions in relation to employment could have a negative impact on the medical workforce and patients’ access to health care by limiting education, training and career development opportunities;
- qualifying body conduct rules relevant to the medical profession must be consistent with, and not undermine or compromise, medical professional standards as set out by the regulators such as AHPRA and the Medical Board.
Both inquiries are due to report by 4 February 2022.