Religious Freedom Legislation Package Released

The Attorney-General, Hon Christian Porter, released last Thursday the draft Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation for public consultation and feedback.

CSA was approached for comment by a number of media organisations and my initial impressions of the Bill and the background to it are outlined in an article in The Australian last Friday.

We have also prepared a detailed briefing focussing on the effects of the legislative package and its impact on Christian schools.  This can be downloaded this the link below.  We encourage all school boards and leaders to read this detailed briefing.

In conjunction with the release of this package of Bills the Government narrowed the Term of Reference of the referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) of the other aspect of the response to the Religious Freedom Review of interest to Christian schools and deferred the timetable for this review.

While the substance of the ALRC review remains the same it will now do so in the light of the proposed legislation circulated last week.  Rather than releasing a Discussion Paper next week it will now release a discussion paper “in early 2020” with the reporting deadline to Government pushed back from April 2020 to 12 December 2020.   Although claimed to “reduce confusion for stakeholders” the amended timeline will require the Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation to be finalised BEFORE the discussion paper on proposed amendment to the existing amendments are released. 

CSA is concerned that this will not allow appropriate consultation on the complete package of reforms affecting Christian and other faith-based schools.

We have raised this with the Attorney-General’s office and will continue to advocate for a more coordinated response to both aspects of the whole package.

Copies of all the exposure draft Bills and related notes and materials can be downloaded from the Attorney-General’s website using the links below.

Attorney General’s Outline of the Reforms

    Religious Discrimination Bill 2019

    Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019

    Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019

    CSA will be making a detailed submission to the Attorney-General and has already been in extensive discussions with his office.  Should any school also want to provide a submission to this consultation you can do so by emailing it to FoRConsultation@ag.gov.au. The Attorney-General’s department has indicated that they prefer you to use the following template for your submission.

    • Submission Form – Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 Exposure Draft [PDF 344KB]
    • Submission Form – Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 Exposure Draft [DOCX 82KB]

    The consultation closes at 5pm AEST 2 October 2019. Late submissions will not be considered.

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