Labor won’t oppose the Religious Discrimination bill in the lower house

The Labor party has confirmed it does not plan to oppose the Religious Discrimination bill in the House of Representatives, but argues that the government should not force a vote before the report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights is delivered.

The third version of the contentious legislation was introduced into parliament last week by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Later in the week the Attorney-General Michaelia Cash referred the legislation to the Human Rights Committee. A move that was seen to placate moderate Liberals who had voiced concerns about how the legislation could potentially lead to discrimination of people who are LGBTIQA+, those with disabilities, and women.

Equality advocates have been calling on the opposition to oppose the legislation, but Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has reportedly recommended that the party support the legislation in the lower house, but reserve the right to interrogate it more vigorously in the senate.

Political pundits have suggested that the government is more interested in driving forward the legislation so it can be used as a wedge issue against Labor during the forthcoming election. A review of Labor’s failure at the last election highlight the party faced a challenge connecting with voters in seats in Western Sydney which have large religious populations. The same seats that voiced opposition to marriage equality in the 2017 plebiscite.

The legislation was listed for debate on today’s parliamentary schedule but MPs did not get to it. With only two days remaining in the parliamentary calendar for 2021 there are growing doubts the bill could be passed before the 2022 federal election.

The government has tabled the 2022 parliamentary calendar, but there is just a handful of days scheduled for the first few months of the year, and the calling of an election would likely void several months of the planned dates.

OIP Staff

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