The draft Religious Discrimination Bill proposed by Attorney General Christian Porter offers no protection to Australian Citizens at all. I urge everyone to make a submission to the Attorney General about this draft Bill now. The submission period is open now and will remain open until October 2nd.
If you would like to read the draft Bill follow this link:
Read carefully(!) because on first reading it actually seems OK. When you read more closely you will realise how bad it really is!
When you are ready to make your submission follow this link (courtesy of the Australian Christian Lobby):
For your information, here is the submission I made on behalf of the Right to Life Association of WA
You are welcome to copy and adapt it if you wish.
Dear Attorney General Christian Porter:
I have become familiar with your draft Religious Discrimination Bill and I am dismayed that it in fact offers no protection at all to Australians who wish to practice their religion, speak about their faith, evangelise to others or make public comments based on their religion.
I urge you to protect the right of all Australians to practice their religion. I urge you therefore to make major changes to your draft Religious Discrimination Bill so that, if passed by Parliament, it will indeed protect all Australian citizens from religious discrimination by their employer or by any person. I urge you to make it illegal for an employer to prevent an employee or a contracted person from practicing their faith, speaking about the faith or making public comments based on their faith. I further urge you to also make changes that will protect the rights of religious institutions like schools, charities, universities and churches so that they can act, preach and teach according to their faith, and hire staff and admit members, students and others who share the same belief system as they do.
Big companies should not be permitted by the bill to restrict statements of belief from their staff on the basis that it might cause them “unjustifiable financial hardship.” That simply gives permission for big corporates like QANTAS to put pressure on groups like Rugby Australia to fire people like Israel Folau.
The draft bill allows government and smaller corporate employers to limit employees' statements of belief if it is "reasonable." That threshold is far too low, and should be brought into line with international human rights law, which permits such limitations only when it is "necessary."
The draft Bill should not prohibit statements of belief on the basis that they "vilify." This is a word that is not used in any other Australian law, and it has no clear legal meaning. Australians like Archbishop Julian Porteous still won’t know what they can and cannot say.
Your draft Bill proposes that actions by faith-based charities and schools which are consistent with their beliefs are protected, but not if they are engaged mainly in commercial activities. This is a problem for a great many churches and other groups who structure their activities so that some entities earn the money and the others spend it on good causes. Faith does not pause when the cash register opens.
The draft bill protects "lawful religious activity." Religious activity needs to be defined to make sure it includes public actions which are consistent with someone’s faith (like their social media posts, academic works, professional conversations, etc.), not merely actions which are inherently religious (like praying, going to church, etc.) If the bill doesn’t say so, the courts will get to decide!
The draft Bill also does not address 'lawful' religious activity adequately. What if a local council made a bylaw that restricted religious freedom? Or an aggressor sued someone under another law like the Sex Discrimination Act… Does that mean religious freedom is always a second-class right? All religious activity should be protected, so long as it is not criminal.
The Draft Bill should say that it is religious discrimination to force a person to act against their conscience. For example, in providing services they cannot agree with such as abortion, IVF or hormone therapy, or supporting events they cannot agree with (like same-sex weddings).
Right to Life Association of WA