Christian Porter brings draft religious freedom plans to cabinet

The Morrison Government’s cabinet is due to meet today to discuss early plans for proposed changes to anti-discrimination law for religious freedom.

The Australian has reported that Attorney General Christian Porter has said the draft legislation “mirrors other anti-discrimination acts such as those already covering race, sex and aged discrimination.”

The proposal is also said to include a federal law that would protect religious groups from “vexatious”cases brought to the courts under state law, as well as a ban on faith-based discrimination in employment, services and housing.

“We remain committed to delivering on that promise and we are close to settling a draft bill for public consultation,” Porter told The Australian.

“Consultation has already occurred during the drafting process with a variety of stakeholders, including religious groups, and there will be further opportunities before the bill is introduced to the house.”

The Attorney General has also asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to look into religious exemptions to discrimination laws across Australia.

“The ALRC inquiry is designed to ensure that legislative exemptions to discrimination based on a person’s identity are limited or removed, while also protecting the right of religious institutions to conduct their affairs in a way consistent with their religious ethos.”

The Attorney General has held consultation sessions with religious groups and leaders ahead of bringing these drafts to the cabinet, though there are concerns that others who may be affected by these laws are not being heard.

LGBTI advocates have been urging the community to make their views known to the Federal Government about proposed religious discrimination and freedom laws.

Advocates have also called on Labor and the Senate cross bench to oppose any weakening of state discrimination and hate speech laws by the Morrison Government.

just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said “if news reports are correct, the Federal Government is planning to override state hate speech laws, including those in Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT where there are no religious exemptions for hate speech.”

“Hate speech laws have fostered a more inclusive Australia for LGBTI people, people wth disability, religious and racial minorities, and other groups, and any attempt to weaken these laws can only result in a rise in hate.”

Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli also spoke to The Australian, saying the government needs to take a “positive approach to recognise religious rights.”

“We are in favour of some [sort of] religious discrimination act but it is important that it is a positive law, one not about exemption,” the Archbishop said.

“We have signed up to a number of international covenants in terms of religious freedom as a basic human right. We are keen to see some way in which that might be legislated.”

OIP Staff