Religious leaders pressure Labor to support religious discrimination bill | australian politics


Religious leaders said a lightened version of the coalition’s religious discrimination legislation “would deserve bipartisan support”, increasing pressure on Labor to declare a position.

In a joint statement, leaders including the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli, the Australian Jewish Community Executive Council and the Australian National Council of Imams argued that the “more controversial” measures appeared to have been scrapped.

On Monday Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he “absolutely” supports religious freedom and “will always support faith communities”, but protecting this right should not mean “taking away the freedom of others”.

Albanese also suggested that the government had not “worked in a bipartisan fashion” because it had not yet shown the legislation to the opposition.

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has been briefed on the contents of the bill, but Labor insists he will not comment until the bill is finalized, claiming Liberal MPs are negotiating still with the Attorney General, Michaelia Cash.

Cash told Labor the bill would go to the coalition party hall on Tuesday and be presented to the lower house this week, although some Liberal backbenchers are still in favor of its introduction into the Senate so that an investigation and amendments settle its final form before having to deal with this.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said friday the government agreed to introduce the bill this year as part of a net zero emissions deal with the nationals.

Last week, Guardian Australia revealed that two of the most controversial provisions had been removed: the so-called Folau clause preventing employers from sanctioning employees for religious speech; and sections allowing healthcare providers to refuse treatment on the basis of a “conscientious objection”.

Despite the changes, moderate Liberals, including Katie Allen, still reserve the right to speak on the bill, while Tory MP George Christensen fears the bill still does not go far enough.

The bill still allows faith-based institutions, such as religious schools, to positively discriminate against people who do not share their faith, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said is necessary to maintain their “distinctive faith-based ethos. “.

In the joint statement, religious leaders said they “would have preferred” the Folau clause and conscientious objection to be “retained in one form or another”.

But they said they welcome the fact that this “will protect people of faith from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs, and allow faith-based organizations to act in accordance with their doctrines, principles and beliefs without doing so. be rejected as religious discrimination “.

“With the most controversial measures reportedly removed from the bill, there appears to be no reasonable reason for it to generate a deeply polarizing debate on religion,” they said.

“If the reports on key provisions of the bill are correct, it will deserve bipartisan support. “

Anthony Albanese called on the Coalition to show Labor the finalized legislation. Photography: Mick Tsikas / AAP

On Monday, Financial Services Minister Jane Hume said the bill would likely be subject to “close scrutiny”, including referral to a Senate committee.

When asked if the bill takes precedence over the rights of other minorities, Hume said the current bill “does not take precedence over religious exemptions in any existing anti-discrimination legislation.”

The bill is expected to go to the lower house and would encounter great difficulty in the Senate, where interbank senators Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff will oppose it, making Labor support essential.

Albanese accuses PM of “spinning”

Earlier, Albanese had told ABC radio that all that was known about the bill was “a shell game from the Prime Minister’s office.”

“I have spoken to religious leaders… who are very disappointed that the government, on an issue that should not be a matter of partisan politics, has not worked in a bipartisan fashion in this parliament, as Scott Morrison is still seeking to to divide rather than bring people together.

Albanese told reporters in Canberra that “it shouldn’t be a partisan issue” because banning religious discrimination “should be an issue that simply unites the country.”

Instead, the government had waited until “the end of the third term, the last two sitting weeks” to introduce a bill, he said.

Christian Lobby Says Bill Does Not Address “Flash Points”

In a statement, the political director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Wendy Francis, said she was pleased that the bill gives religious institutions, including schools, the option to prefer to employ faith-based staff, and overrides state laws that might prevent such religious preference. .

The Christian lobby has also welcomed a protection of statements of belief that goes beyond Tasmania’s anti-discrimination law, which prohibits speech that offends, insults or humiliates people on the basis of protected attributes such as sexuality, gender, age or disability.

“However, the bill does not address some of the flashpoints of religious hostility in the real world,” Francis said.

She said these include: “Employers’ overbreadth in the employee’s private discourse; the abuse of hate speech laws against religious expression; threats against churches and families of LGBT conversion laws banning prayer and counseling; [and] growing attacks on the ability of Christian schools to function ethically.


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