Religious Discrimination Legislation – when?

Late last year CSA wrote to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Hon Christian Porter, about the Government’s religious discrimination legislation.

While indicating that we understood, and supported, the religious discrimination legislation being deferred as a result of the COVID19 pandemic we considered it a priority for introduction in the 2021 legislative calendar.  We also reiterated our encouragement to the Government to consult early with the Opposition on the proposed legislation. We remain of the view that bi-partisan support for the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is possible and in the wider public interest.

Today we received  a response from the Government indicating that –

“The Government continues to consider the submissions made on the second exposure draft of the legislative package. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Government’s immediate priorities continue to be protecting the health of all Australians and addressing the significant economic consequences of the pandemic. The Government will revisit its legislative program as appropriate to respond to the developing situation, and bring the Religious Discrimination Bill forward at an appropriate time.”

This is, frankly, a very disappointing position being taken by the Government.  Protection for religious freedom has been well established as being deficient and  falling well short of Australia’s international treaty obligations.

We will be continuing to take this issue up with Government and seeking the re-introduction of this legislative package as soon as possible.