Scott Morrison this week postponed consideration of the Religious Freedom Bill. However, Rodney Croome, spokesperson for just.equal, says the threat to LGBTIQ Australians from discrimination masquerading as ‘religious freedom’ remains.
The campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill is working, but we must keep up the pressure if we are to see it scrapped. Last week Scott Morrison told the National Press Club the Bill is on hold with no timetable for consideration by Cabinet. He cited the pandemic as the reason.
But it’s clear there’s more to it than that.
Eric Abetz and Martyn Iles
The pandemic never stopped the Government moving ahead on industrial relations and energy policy.
Meanwhile, key supporters of the Bill, including Senator Eric Abetz and the Australian Christian Lobby chief, Martyn Iles, have suddenly, publicly and in unison, turned against the bill’s critics accusing us of ‘quietly’ spreading ‘egregious untruths’ and ‘sneering’ at people of faith.
I would hazard a guess that internal polling and focus groups indicated growing opposition to the Bill. The government realised that any attempt to pass it would come at an electoral cost.
That was a cost that didn’t exist when the Bill was first flagged in September last year. At that time, most people took the legislation at face value and thought it simply prohibited discrimination on the ground of religion.
Thanks to LGBTIQ people, people with disability and other affected groups raising our voices, many more Australians now understand that the Bill is actually about allowing discrimination in the name of religion.
But the Prime Minister can’t admit that, so he’s blaming the pandemic.
Abetz and Iles can’t admit it either. Neither can they turn their ire on Morrison. So, they’re shooting the messengers instead.
No stop to the campaign against the bill
Does this mean we can retire our religious discrimination campaigning?
Not at all!
If we stop now, we will lose the ground made so far.
The Religious Discrimination Bill is part of a global movement to allow anti-LGBTIQ discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom’.
As the Trump presidency shows, that movement is strengthening, not withering.
Also, keep in mind the promise some Coalition members made before the last election to protect anti-LGBTIQ folk from all the monstrous creatures lurking in a post-marriage equality world.
They are determined to keep that promise if only because to do otherwise would show the monsters aren’t real.
The bill could return at any time. For now, my money is on the government tabling it closer to the next federal election.
That way, the government can use it as an election wedge against Labor. John Howard used the same tactic in 2004. His bill banning same-sex marriages wedged Labor in the lead up to that year’s election.
Using the extra time
We must use the extra time to continue educating our fellow Australians about the dangers of the Bill.
We must keep pointing out that ‘freedom for faith’ actually means privilege for prejudice.
In particular, we must push Labor to speak out more loudly against the Bill.
Labor’s meek and mousey opposition to the Bill speaks volumes about divisions within its own ranks.
It’s what gives the Government reason to think Labor can be wedged and the legislation might pass.
If you haven’t already, I urge you to send an email to our national leaders through the Equality Not Discrimination website.
I also urge you to stay in touch with the campaign so we can continue to keep up the pressure through 2020 and into 2021.
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