Attorney-General Christian Porter is facing a growing backlash against the Government’s proposed religious freedom bill, as the business sector says the laws could increase conflict in workplaces. Source: The Australian.
With the deadline for submissions on the draft bill closed, the Australian Industry Group and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have made public their lists of concerns ahead of a Parliamentary vote on a religious discrimination bill as early as this year.
Both peak industry groups fear the definition of “religious belief or activity” in the proposed bill is too broad and could be problematic for employers, resulting in “unnecessary conflict and controversy in workplaces”.
In a rare unity ticket, the union movement also opposed the draft religious discrimination bill, with the ACTU’s submission cautioning that it privileged the rights of religious organisations over workers’ rights to be treated fairly and equally.
Union opposition will put pressure on Labor to vote down the laws in federal Parliament.
AiGroup, which represents more than 60,000 small, medium and large businesses, said in its submission it could not support the bills in their current form.
“The bills have the potential to increase conflict in Australian workplaces,” its submission states. “The bills need to be amended to ensure that they are not at odds with the maintenance of harmonious workplace relations and co-operative Australian workplaces.
“The concept of a ‘religious belief’ is not defined in the bills and is very broad and uncertain. Further, a person’s religious beliefs can be much less tangible than a person’s sex, age, race or disability that feature in federal anti-discrimination legislation.
“The bill’s restrictions on businesses, in seeking to protect religious and non-religious beliefs and activities, are unreasonable. Businesses need to be able to maintain appropriate standards of conduct in workplaces.”
Representing more than 300,000 businesses, ACCI’s submission said employers would have to rely on the High Court’s definition of religion, which would prove challenging for businesses and legal advisers.
Last week, The Australian reported on the submissions of representatives from the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim faiths as well as independent schools, with each organisation raising issues with the draft bill.
Firms in religious freedom warning (The Australian)
'Unworkable and unfair': Big business opposes religious freedom bill (Sydney Morning Herald)
Muslims want protection in religion bill (The Australian)
‘Serious problems’ put Anglicans off religious freedom bill (The Australian)