Christian Schools Australia has welcomed much of the updated 2021 ALP National Platform adopted last week.
The ALP National Platform “provides members and supporters in the community with a clear statement of Labor’s beliefs, values and program for government”. The previous, 2018, platform amongst its 309 pages merely said, in relation to religious freedom, that “Labor supports the appropriate protection of the religious freedom of all people“.
Following the 2019 Federal Election at which religious freedom played a decisive role in the outcome, the ALP has been working hard to strengthen its understanding of faith communities and their needs. NSW Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill has been spearheading much of this work.
While the 2021 National Platform is much shorter, at only 111 pages, there is a much stronger committment to the protection of religious freedom –
41. Labor will protect and promote the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in accordance with Australia’s international obligations, including our obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
42. Labor recognises that the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief, to change a religion or belief, or not to have or adopt a religion or belief, is absolute. Moreover, Labor believes in and supports the right of all Australians to have and to manifest their religion or beliefs, and the right of religious organisations to act in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of their faith. Such rights should be protected by law and, in accordance with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, subject only to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
43. Labor believes that no Australian should ever be vilified or subjected to violence or threats of violence because of that person’s religion or religious belief. Labor will therefore ensure that Australia’s anti-vilification laws are fit for purpose.
The adoption of some of the key langauge we have proposed, including references to Article 18 of the ICCPR, recognises a willingness to listen and act on the concerns of CHristian school groups. While other aspects of the Platform remain of concern this is a very positive step.
We look forward to building on the foundations of this National Platform with the ALP to ensure that religious freedom is adequately protected.