Every Australian should have the right to believe what they feel is correct…so long as that doesn’t directly infringe on other Australians’ rights to study, work and live free of discrimination.
That’s proving a tricky equation for our pollies to balance. But they haven’t given up yet.
Religious discrimination laws look set to be one of the first issues to come under the spotlight of the new federal parliament.
Attorney General Christian Porter this week said a draft Religious Discrimination Act is ‘well advanced’, signalling it may be introduced to parliament when it sits for the first time in July.
‘We have made clear that we want to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act because there is a gap in our legal regime,’ Liberal MP for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman told ABC Television on Saturday.
‘We have laws that prevent discrimination based on age, sex, sexuality, disability and race, but not one that deals with discrimination based on religion.’
This issue was raised during Australia’s gay marriage plebiscite two years ago and was brought back to the fore during the recent federal election campaign, when Israel Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia for expressing his religious beliefs on social media.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is pushing for religious beliefs to be exempt from employment contracts.
But Mr Zimmerman says business contracts are a complex area because different workplaces have standards about what they expect of their employees in terms of the perception of the company and the impact it can have on other employees.
‘I don’t know that you want to be in a workplace where you have, for example someone prophesising that you’re going to go to hell because of a particular aspect of your lifestyle,’ he said.
‘I don’t think it provides for a particularly inclusive workplace.’
Victorian Federal Labor MP Andrew Giles isn’t sure the focus on Israel Folau is the most helpful way of resolving the issues, saying it is not consistent with what a number of faith-based organisations have been saying to him.
‘My concern is to make sure that we work through laws in a systematic way, in a consultative way to make sure that people don’t feel excluded,’ Mr Giles told ABC.
While Mr Giles did not believe the issue of religious freedom necessarily hurt Labor at the ballot box two weeks ago, he does think there were real concerns from faith-based communities.
‘We have got to find a balance on these questions particularly when it comes to the rights of employees generally, to have a private life and other employees not to be impacted by them,’ he said.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP