Greens Call For Release Of Religious Freedom Review Report


Janet Rice and Scott Morrison

The Greens have demanded the federal government release the Ruddock religious freedom review panel’s long-awaited report.

The religious freedom review, headed by Philip Ruddock, was announced last year to placate conservatives following the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in December.

The review panel handed its report to the federal government on May 18 but it has not yet been released.

This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged “preventative regulation and legislation” as necessary to protect freedom of religion in Australia from hypothetical future threats.

Greens Justice spokesperson Nick McKim said on Wednesday the party would move a motion in the Senate demanding the government release the review panel’s report.

McKim said he was concerned Scott Morrison is trying to dismantle existing anti-discrimination laws “for the benefit of fundamentalists and extremists.”

“We need to see the Ruddock Review so the Australian people can see what he has up his sleeve,” he said.

“This has been a secretive process from start to finish. Enough is enough.”

Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said the LGBTIQ community had “been left in the lurch for months” awaiting the release of the review panel’s report.

“Our rights are at stake and we’re being kept in the dark,” she said.

“Scott Morrison’s recent anti-LQBTIQ+ comments have ignited fear in our communities that the government is planning to wind back the laws which protect LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination.

“We need to know to what extent he is planning to further discriminate against everyday LGBTIQ+ Australians in order to shore up the support of powerful religious institutions.”

Morrison told Sky News the Christian school his children attend should be able to hire and fire staff in line with its teachings, something schools can already do under current laws.

He added Australians of faith shouldn’t be kept out of top jobs if their beliefs conflict with company policies, something he conceded wasn’t “necessarily” happening.

“Why should you be denied a directorship or a partnership in a law firm or accountancy firm just because you happen to have expressed on Facebook or somewhere a particular religious belief?” he told Sky News host Paul Murray.

“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now, I’m not saying it is, necessarily.

“People say, ‘Oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’ Can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?

“I’ve seen where this issue has gone over the last 10 years. And issues of freedom of speech, I’ve seen where they’ve gone over the last 10 years. I’m not quite sure I’m pleased with the trajectory.

“So there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country. What’s more fundamental than that?”

LGBTIQ advocates have been calling for the release of the Ruddock review’s report for months.

Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome warned the federal government last week it has no mandate to weaken existing anti-discrimination protections under the guise of “protecting religious freedom”.

“There is no threat to religious freedom so we fear the real purpose of any new law will be to take existing discrimination protections away from LGBTI Australians,” he said.

“We will lobby the Senate to oppose any new law that waters down existing discrimination protections.

“Last year Australians voted overwhelmingly for equality and any move to weaken LGBTI discrimination protections would run against that.”