Religious Discrimination Bill rework OK says ECAJ

December 1, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed the Federal government’s decision to issue a revised and further exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

Peter Wertheim

The ECAJ’s co-CEO Peter Wertheim states: “The Federal government has made a good faith effort to review Australia’s current laws affecting religious freedom, which have developed incrementally over decades and represent a compromise between the just requirements of faith communities, the principle of equal rights for all citizens and the reasonable needs of the business sector.

Nobody should pretend that it is an easy task to strike a new balance of the interests at stake in order to better reflect the evolving needs and values of Australian society. Such an outcome may ultimately prove not to be achievable, but that does not mean it is wrong to seek it.

He explained: “The priority for the Jewish community is that all of its faith-based institutions and organisations, including places of worship, schools and pre-schools, aged care centres, hospitals, retirement villages, youth groups, clubs and voluntary associations will continue to be free to operate as they currently do.

Specifically, this means that they will continue to be free to give preference to members of the Jewish community, if their ethos so requires, in the provision of goods and services, in their employment practices, in the conduct of their operations, in their membership and in their governance and management”.

The ECAJ looks forward to working with the government on the upcoming exposure draft, with the input and support of the Australian Jewish community and in consultation with our colleagues representing other faith communities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “After further considering the hundreds of submissions that have been made to the Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Act (RDA), the Government decided earlier this week to issue a revised and further exposure draft of the RDA Bill to reflect the Government’s response to the consultation to date and provide further opportunity for engagement.

Scott Morrison

This second and final exposure draft will be released before the end of the year and will take account of issues raised and provide the opportunity to respond to the revisions made and fine-tune the Bill before it is introduced next year.

Our Government takes the issue of discrimination against Australians for their religious beliefs very seriously. We made a commitment to Australians to address this issue at the last election and we are keeping faith with that commitment in a calm and considered process. We’re about listening and getting this right.

Recent statements by Labor seem to be opportunistically trying to derail and discredit this highly consultative and patient process. This is disappointing and betrays a lack of genuine commitment by Labor to the principle that Australians who hold sincere religious beliefs in this country deserve the same legal protections that are rightly provided in other areas such as gender and race. During the election, Labor did not stand up for Australia’s many religious communities, and it seems nothing has changed.

Our Government will continue to proceed on the basis of good faith with a view to having a balanced and common sense Bill that protects the important religious freedoms that Australians can sadly no longer take for granted.

But Shadow Attorney-General mark Dreyfus stated:

Mark Dreyfus

It is Mr Morrison, not Labor, who repeatedly promised legislation before the end of the year, but now, under fire from all sides over his failure to properly consult has thrown a tantrum and pulled the bill.

And of course it was also Scott Morrison who promised in the Wentworth by-election to protect kids from being discriminated against in schools, and over a year later has still failed to deliver.

Unlike Mr Morrison, Labor has been consulting widely across the entire community, holding dozens of meetings with religious organisations, LGBTIQ groups, legal experts and other community representatives.

Labor agrees with the core principle that all Australians should be able to go about their lives free from discrimination.

Consistent with that principle, we have made clear that any laws aimed at protecting Australians from discrimination because of their religious belief must not remove protections that already exist in the law to protect Australians from other forms of discrimination.”

Comments

4 Responses to “Religious Discrimination Bill rework OK says ECAJ”
  1. Michael Barnett says:

    Any protections religious communities get under a Religious Discrimination Bill must not come at the expense of any other groups in society.

  2. ben gershon says:

    there is enough protection now

    any new legislation is redundant and superfluous

    ben

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