SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION
Today the Government’s long promised Religious Discrimination Bill has finally been introduced into Federal Parliament.
Labor will now carefully review the bill and consult widely with the Australian community.
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief is a fundamental human right. Labor supports the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or activities – just as Commonwealth law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race, sex, gender identity, sex characteristics and sexual orientation.
The introduction of this legislation comes on the eve of a federal election and almost three years after the Prime Minister promised Australians that a religious discrimination bill would be law before the 2019 election.
Labor has repeatedly made clear to the Attorney-General and her predecessor Christian Porter that we are ready to work with the Government on a religious discrimination bill. While the Government has not taken Labor up on that offer to date, it is an offer that still stands.
Labor’s approach to this bill will be guided by a number of simple but fundamental principles, including the following.
First, as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes clear, religious organisations and people of faith have the right to act in accordance with the doctrines, beliefs or teachings of their traditions and faith, subject only to limitations that are necessary to protect public safety or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Second, Labor supports the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or activities.
And third, consistent with the International Covenant, any extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework should not remove protections that already exist in the law to protect Australians from other forms of discrimination.
Labor understands that the Prime Minister would like to bring the bill on for debate in the House of Representatives this year – within days of the bill being introduced.
Such an approach would effectively require Members of the House of Representatives to vote on this complex and important legislation before they have had an opportunity to consider the bill carefully or consult with their constituents, and before the bill has been reviewed by a parliamentary committee.
This makes it particularly important that the Morrison Government support the establishment of a Joint Select Committee, so that all members of Parliament – including Members of the House of Representatives – can participate in the Parliamentary inquiry process.
Labor will now carefully consider this complex legislation and consult widely with religious bodies, civil society organisations, LGBTIQ groups, legal experts, community organisations and other Australians with an interest in this important area of legal reform.
THURSDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2021