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What is your party’s position on the introduction of legislation recognising the positive right to religious freedom in Australia?

Labor respects the right of all Australians to practise their religion freely. In our platform we declare: “Labor supports the appropriate protection of the religious freedom of all people.”

At the same time, Labor is committed to reducing discrimination in Australian society where it can be done in a responsible way that respects freedom of belief and conscience.

Labor has made clear that we are open for a discussion around whether religious freedom requires greater protection in this country. We supported the establishment of the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom and consistently called for the Government to make that review public.

After conducting extensive consultation across our nation, the Ruddock Review concluded that: “While the Panel did not accept the argument, put by some, that religious freedom is in imminent peril, it did accept that the protection of difference with respect to belief or faith in a democratic, pluralist country such as Australia requires constant vigilance.”

Labor agrees with this finding and will ensure this vigilance is maintained. As part of this commitment, Labor will continue to support the important work of the Australian Human Rights Commission in protecting the rights of all Australians, including the right to freedom of religion.

I also note the Morrison Government announced its intention to introduce legislation to further protect religious freedom in February. It has broken this promise.

I have no doubt that by working together, Australians can enhance religious protections whilst at the same time protecting vulnerable Australians – including children – from the risk of discrimination.


 

The Greens believe that all Australians have the right to live peacefully and comfortably, without fear of persecution for their ethnicity, cultural background or religion. As such, the Greens believe that all in Australia should have the right to practice and express their religious identity, and that we as Australians should celebrate our cultural diversity and the value it adds to our country. We also believe that these rights extend to all people regardless of income, gender, sexuality, or other identity factors.

Therefore, the Greens support the positive right to religious belief and expression so far as it does not allow for discrimination against other groups. Where the right of religious belief and expression conflicts with the right to live free from discrimination, these tensions should be resolved by a charter of rights.


The Morrison Government’s response to the Ruddock Review committed to three broad lines of effort:

  • a referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission asking it to inquire into religious exemptions to Commonwealth, State and Territory discrimination laws;
  • legislating to protect Australians from discrimination on the basis of their religious belief
    or activity, and making supporting amendments to existing Commonwealth laws; and
  • protecting Freedom of Religion in Australia by establishing a Freedom of Religion Commissioner and empowering the Human Rights Commission to educate and promote
    freedom of religion.

The Government has asked the Attorney-General’s Department to develop legislation to implement the remaining recommendations of the Ruddock Review.

ln contrast, we oppose the Labor party’s Sex Discrimination (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 because it would in effect censure what could be taught by religious bodies and dictate how they teach their faith.

Labor’s bill represents an unprecedented attack on religious freedom in Australia by bringing the full force of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 against all bodies established for religious purposes.


We support recognising religious freedom, as outlined in our own Protected Freedoms Bill. These freedoms would trump new competing ‘rights’ or erosions of those freedoms. We do not support creating a federal anti-discrimination law preventing, say, ”offence” and “insult” on religious grounds. These have been abused by opponents of Christian and Catholic faith at state and overseas levels.


 

All Australians should be accorded a right to religious freedom as well as the basic freedom of speech.