Attorney-General brushes off concerns with religion bill


attorney general christian porter religious discrimination bill religious freedom
Photo: ABC

Attorney-General Christian Porter has dismissed concerns from LGBTIQ advocates about a problematic clause in the government’s religious discrimination bill.

Porter released the draft bill last week to criticism from LGBTIQ advocates that it goes too far.

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In particular, the bill explicitly overrides a clause in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act to allow offensive language if religious in nature.

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said while Labor supports religious freedom, the weakening of the Tasmanian law was “a real problem”.

“I think that would be a real problem with this legislation,” Plibersek told ABC’s Insiders program.

“It’s something that [Attorney-General] Christian Porter promised that he wouldn’t do, interfere with state laws.

“That is something that I think we would find very difficult to support. But we have to go through our proper processes on this.”

But Attorney-General Christian Porter has tried to deny his bill would override state laws.

“The bill doesn’t contravene state law,” he told The Australian.

“Tanya Plibersek and Labor are just using any excuse possible to walk away from protecting the 14 million people in Australia that hold religious beliefs.

“The Morrison government went to the election promising to protect religious Australians from discrimination and this draft bill does that.”

Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese told The Australian he would consult on the bill before committing support.

“Labor takes religious freedom seriously,” he said.

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“But, unlike the government, we will take the time to consult with the community before coming to any conclusions.”

The federal government is accepting submissions responding to the draft religious discrimination legislation online here until October 2.

Tas discrimination case ‘grossly misrepresented’ by media

The Tasmanian law bans speech that “offends, insults or humiliates” people based on grounds including gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability and relationship status.

But statements that are “malicious, would harass, vilify or incite hatred or violence against a person or group” would not be shielded under the government’s proposal.

Tasmania’s is the only Australian discrimination law prohibiting “offensive, insulting or humiliating” speech with no religious exemption.

Equality Tasmania’s Rodney Croome has slammed Porter for reneging on an earlier pledge to not weaken state laws.

Croome also called on Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese to commit Labor to blocking the legislation.

“Tasmania’s strong protections have fostered a fairer and more inclusive society for all Tasmanians,” he said.

“Especially people with disability, Aboriginal people, ethnic and religious minorities, women and LGBTI people.

“Given our gold-standard Anti-Discrimination Act is a proud Labor achievement, I would expect Labor to strongly defend it from any federal intervention.”

Croome said the main justification for undermining the law was a discrimination case against Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous in 2015.

The complaint, which was later dropped, concerned the language used in a passage in a Catholic Church booklet claiming “messing with marriage is messing with kids.”

Croome said the case has been “grossly misrepresented” in national news reports and was not a complaint about the church’s stance against same-sex marriage.

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