Greens call on Philip Ruddock to step down from religious freedom review

The Australian Greens are calling on former Liberal MP Philip Ruddock to resign from his position as chair of the government’s Religious Freedom Review after his appointment as President of the New South Wales Liberal Party.

Greens’ Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim says the new appointment is a conflict of interest, and makes his position untenable.

“Philip Ruddock becoming NSW Liberal President makes his position as chair of the Religious Freedom Review untenable,” Senator McKim said.

“It is evidence of clear political bias and gives the lie to any claim of independence. He should immediately offer his resignation from the Review panel, and if he doesn’t, Mr Turnbull should sack him.”

Greens’ LGBTI spokesperson Senator Janet Rice adds that while there is certainly room for a conversation about freedom of thought and religion, it should not come at the expense of other freedoms from discrimination.

“This review was set up while the Coalition tore itself apart over the issue of religious freedoms during the marriage equality debate,” Senator Rice said.

“This issue is particularly keenly felt by our LGBTIQ communities, who are still subject to a number of state and federal laws that allow discrimination by religious and faith-based bodies. Ruddock’s new position with the NSW Liberals undermines any intent for the review to provide unbiased advice to the Government.”

LGBTI advocates have made similar calls, with just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome saying Ruddock’s appointment raises questions about the Review’s independence.

“Given the controversial issues the Review is dealing with it must be above suspicion of bias and partisanship,” Croome said.

“The only influence on the Religious Freedom Review should be the evidence it takes.”

The Western Australian branch of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have also raised concerns about the Review panel, after presenting their submission earlier this month.

Michele Davis from PFLAG has described the sessions as being “polite and respectful” but said she was worried about the level of knowledge the panel had about LGBTI mental health issues.

The Review is due to deliver a report to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the government by the end of March.

OIP Staff

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