Cabinet to vote on draft proposals this week

Christian Porter (ABC News/Matt Roberts)

Federal Cabinet will vote this week on draft proposals for a religious discrimination act amid concern from conservative Liberal MPs the bill will not go far enough to protect faith freedoms. Source: The Australian.

The Australian has been told Attorney-General Christian Porter will ask cabinet to sign off on measures he plans for the draft bill after finalising briefings with Coalition MPs.

MPs who have been briefed on the proposals say the bill will probably be modest and ban discrimination on the basis of faith in areas such as employment, housing and the use of services.

“It will be orthodox anti-discrimination legislation,” one MP said. “It is about people not being denied renting a house because they are Muslim. That sort of thing.”

Liberal MPs say Mr Porter has voiced his aim for consulting with Labor on the proposed bill in the next sitting fortnight, beginning September 9. The legislation will probably be put for a party room vote in October, when he aims to introduce it to the lower house.

While Government figures are pushing for the legislation to be passed by the end of the year, the timing will be tight as the bill will probably be referred for examination by a Senate committee.

Mr Porter confirmed the Government was “close to settling a draft for public consultation”.

“Consultation has already occurred during the drafting process with a variety of stakeholders, including religious groups, and there will be further opportunities before the bill is introduced to the house,” Mr Porter said.

“As is usual with such bills, there will likely be a Senate committee of inquiry into the bill after its introduction.”

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus criticised the Government for not yet opening consultations with Labor.

“If the Government is serious about getting this right, and not just pandering to the extremists within its own ranks, it should be consulting more widely with the rest of the community.”

Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses SC said the bill needed to strike the balance between protection of religious freedom and freedom of expression.

FULL STORY

Conservatives fear religious freedom bill will not go far enough (The Australian

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