Victorian Conversion Therapy Bill Passes Legislative Assembly, to Be Debated Next Year

December 11, 2020 Updated: December 11, 2020

Victorian state lawmakers will resume debate next year on the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill that was passed by the Victorian Legislative Assembly on Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, an amendment to pause the bill—put forward by the opposition Liberal Party before Parliament closed for the year—failed. All 55 MPs in the chamber voted in favour for the bill, while members of the opposition were not present.

Speaking in Parliament on Dec. 8, Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews criticised religious leaders who did not support the bill and said the bill will instead “save lives.”

“Victoria is a secular state. If equality is difficult for you, then that’s on you,” he said.

“This is not kindness and love, or the protection of the vulnerable and persecuted. This is not something to be proud of. This is not what I pray for,” said Andrews, adding that his own faith was “personal and private.”

While religious leaders say they support the prevention of coercive practices in principle, many deem the bill to impose restrictions on religious freedom.

Mentone Baptist Church senior pastor previously told The Age: “This is the most significant threat to religious freedom in Victoria … To explicitly mention prayer in Victorian legislation is astonishing.”

The criminalisation of “prayer based practice” will be introduced under the bill—going one step further from recent legislation introduced in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

Additional concerns under the bill include how parents converse with a child with gender dysphoria.

“There are situations where particularly in this bill the opportunity of potentially a child becoming a ward of the state or parents having legal action taken against them because a conversation may be questionable,” Liberal Nationals MP David Southwick, a politician of Jewish background, said.

Southwick said it was important to get “those balances right” in relation to freedom of expression and speech.

However, Minister for Health Martin Foley said: “This bill comes from extensive processes of reporting, review, consultation, and debate over a number of years and should give this House every confidence that the issues have been thoroughly canvassed and considered.”

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien maintains the party’s position on the bill in the upper house, where the Labor government will need opposition or crossbench support for it to pass.

O’Brien has not confirmed whether a conscious vote would be allowed.

AAP contributed to this report.