The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced earlier this afternoon, see coverage here and here, that a further Exposure Draft of the proposed Religious Freedom legislation.
In announcing the decision to release a “second and final exposure draft” the Prime Minister indicated that 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.
The second exposure draft will be released before the end of the year, and, according to the Government, 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.
Importantly the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government “takes the issue of discrimination against Australians for their religious beliefs very seriously” indicating that they are “about listening and getting this right”.
Earlier today the media reported on a letter sent to the Prime Minister by CSA and a range of key faith leaders expressing lingering concerns regarding the proposed legislation.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the legislation is ‘fit for purpose’ and not simply rushed to meet artificial timeframes. The consultation to date with a wide range of groups has been extensive and welcomed and we look forward to further consideration of the revised exposure draft legislation.
Once more information becomes available on the revised exposure draft we will ensure that schools are updated.
A copy of the announcement by the Prime Minister –
PM Media Release from Prime Minister
GOVERNMENT WILL PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS BY GETTING THE LAW RIGHT
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.
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.
Once the Bill is introduced to the Parliament there will also be the opportunity for further engagement through the normal parliamentary process.
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.
I would like to thank the Attorney General for leading this process, all parliamentary colleagues who have engaged sincerely in this process, especially my Government Members and Senators who represent a broad cross section of views, the many religious and non-religious bodies who have also engaged in this process, and Australians of faith and of no faith for the way they have raised issues in a constructive way that enables the Government to take this important agenda forward.
I thank everyone for their constructive patience on this issue and I am sure it will lead to a strong and enduring outcome.
Contacts: Press Office, (02) 6277 7744
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney
EDIT: Letter from the Prime Minister to CSA on this issue can be downloaded from the link below.