Barnaby Joyce wants religious beliefs exempt from employment contracts


nationals coalition mp Barnaby Joyce
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.

Some Coalition MPs have said they will push for stronger “religious freedom” laws after the party’s election result this month, alarming LGBTIQ advocates.

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told Nine newspapers he wants religious beliefs to be exempt from employment contracts.

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The laws would protect anti-gay views including rugby player Israel Folau’s comments that led to his sacking.

“You can’t bring people’s faith beliefs into a contract,” Joyce told the newspapers.

“Your own views on who God is, where God is or whether there’s a God should remain your own personal views and not part of any contractual obligation.

“Freedom of religion is a subset of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech is the more important and overarching issue.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter said this week that introducing a Religious Discrimination Act to parliament in July was a top priority for the government.

The bill would be part of the government’s response to recommendations from the Ruddock review last year.

Religious freedom laws must not be a licence to discriminate

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a high-profile marriage equality opponent, told Nine newspapers she wants a broader Religious Freedom Act.

And the Coalition’s election result meant the government didn’t need to wait until next April for the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of religious exemptions, she said.

“I believe that the recent election has reinforced the need for more immediate legislative action,” she told the newspapers.

“This is vitally important to not only address our concerns but afford protection against these constant incursions from Labor, the Greens and their acolytes.

“It’s a new dawn on this issue.”

But Equality Australia warned religious discrimination laws must not “enshrine LGBTIQ+ discrimination in law”.

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“Framing this as a legal protection of religious freedoms is nothing short of deceitful. It is a legal protection for discrimination,” CEO Anna Brown said.

Brown said people of faith deserve protection from discrimination but the laws should be “a shield to protect religious practice, not a sword to attack the LGBTIQ+ community.”

The group have pledged to lobby MPs in Canberra against winding back legal protections for LGBTIQ people.

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