Coalition MPs and faith leaders have dismissed a call for the Morrison Government’s religious discrimination bill to be scrapped. Source: The Age.
By Judith Ireland, The Age
Senior Liberal backbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells this week said the Government should ditch the controversial bill in favour of a new anti-discrimination framework because it was too “flawed” and religious leaders continued to raise “serious concerns”.
But several government MPs dismissed senator Fierravanti-Wells’ idea yesterday, saying a consolidated framework of all anti-discrimination laws was “unrealistic” and “risky”.
Victorian Liberal and free speech advocate James Paterson said he was “completely opposed to abandoning an almost complete religious freedom process in favour of a wildly ambitious and risky project to consolidate all anti-discrimination law”.
Senator Paterson, who sits on the Government’s backbench committee that will look at the bill before it is taken to the Coalition party room, added it would take “years” to get a national anti-discrimination law framework and “the final product is almost certain to be inferior”.
Queensland senator Amanda Stoker, who chairs the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee that will examine the bill once it is introduced to Parliament, agreed a consolidation project was “unrealistic” and a “long way off”.
The former barrister, who spoke of freedom of religion in her first speech to Parliament, added: “If we want to level the playing field in discrimination law for people of faith, then we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
A second draft of the religious discrimination bill was released just before Christmas after wide-ranging criticism from community, business and religious groups – with some saying the first bill gave religious Australians too many protections and others wanting more.
A coalition of religious leaders, who threatened in November to withdraw their support for the bill unless greater freedoms were granted for Australians of faith, recently wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response to the second draft.
Sources close to the group say the letter suggests further refinements to the bill but does not contemplate abandoning the process.