Religious freedom issues sent to Australian Law Reform Commision

Attorney General Christian Porter has formally  announced the issue of how to balance religious freedom and protections from discrimination for LGBTIQ+ students and teachers has been referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission for review.

The government had previously indicated this would be there plan of action when Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed to reach an agreement with the opposition over whether protections should include teachers as well as students.

The review is expected to take up to 12 months to complete. The formal announcement that the issue was being sent for another round of review came as the government wrapped up its response to the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom.

“In announcing the Government’s response to the Ruddock Review on 13th December 2018, the Prime Minister and I indicated that we would consult with states and territories on the terms of a reference to the ALRC on five of the Ruddock Review’s recommendations (Recommendations 1 and 5-8) and that consultation has now been concluded,” the Attorney-General said in a statement.

“It is essential that Australia’s laws are nationally consistent and effectively protect the rights and freedoms recognised in international agreements, to which Australia is a party. This particularly applies to the right to freedom of religion and the rights of equality and non‑discrimination.”

Speaking to David Speers on Sky News the Attorney General denied the decision to order the review was a way of keeping it off the agenda during the upcoming federal election.

Porter said the review was required to ensure the best possible legislation could be drafted to both protect people’s right to practice religion freely but also protect people from discrimination.

David Speers challenged the claim, asking if the legislation already drafted by the government was inadequate? Christian Porter said the legislation put forward was very reasonable, but had no gained the support of the opposition.

“So take it to the election,” Speers said, “Here’s our plan, vote for us and we’ll get it through the parliament.”

Porter responded saying that was exactly the government’s plan and they were taking their existing legislation to the election.

“Then what’s the point of this inquiry?” Speers asked.

“The Prime Minister offered a conscience vote on both sides of parliament to see if we could get this stuff through, but in the absence of that happening – and we would try again with the original draft if we were re-elected, but in the absence of that happening in December we decided one way to try and offer an alternative process, if that first parliamentary process had reached a loggerhead – which it had – is to have drafting undertaken, and research undertaken, but the Australian Law Reform Commission.” Christian Porter said.

David Speer asked if there was a chance the government could completely disregard the outcome of the process because the findings of the Australian Law Reform Commission were not binding.

“Of course,” Porter answered, before adding, “But governments don’t routinely ignore the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission.”

Speers then went to to question the Attorney General on why earlier today he’d completely dismissed a report from the same commission regarding proposed changes to the Family Law Court.

Porter said the government would consider all the proposals in that report, but they did not support a recommendation that all family law issues should be returned to state jurisdiction. The Attorney General said the government had a good plan on how to reform the Family Court, but it have been knocked back by the Labor party.

OIP Staff

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