Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night responded to questions about Israel Folau’s fight against Rugby Australia. He addressed the controversy after questions from ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales about the proposed religious freedoms bill.
A new book by political commentator Nikki Savas about the battle that saw Scott Morrison become Prime Minister, says his former fellow minister Michael Keenan described Morrison as an ‘absolute arsehole’.
Of direct relevance to Morrisons’s remarks on 7.30, Plots and Prayers also reveal that in the minutes before the vote that made him PM Morrison said a prayer with fellow Pentecostal and best friend Stuart Robert.
They prayed that ‘righteousness would exalt the nation’.
She asked the prime minister if introduced changes would protect someone like Israel Folau. Rugby Australia famously recently fired Folau over remarks directed at gays.
Morrison expressed a reluctance to comment as the case would soon go before the courts. However the comments he did make seem to indicate sympathy for Folau’s case.
“I think it’s important, ultimately, that employers have reasonable expectations of their employees, and that they don’t impinge on their areas of private practice and private belief or private activity.
“And there’s a balance that has to be struck in that, and our courts will always ultimately decide this based on the legislation that’s presented.”
Religious Freedoms Bill
The Prime Minister claimed the new bill would aim to close a current gap in the law. He said that gap left expressions of religious faith unprotected.
“We’re looking at a religious discrimination act which I think which will provide more protections for people because of their religious faith and belief in the same way that people of whatever gender they have or sexuality or what nationality or ethnic background or the colour of their skin — they shouldn’t be discriminated against also.”
Leigh Sales then said that any public figure who mentioned Jews going to hell would face condemnation. However, she theorised, if a public figure says gays go to hell, that is apparently defensible as religious freedom.
“Do you see any problem with that situation?” she asked.
The Prime Minister said new legislation would seek to find the right balance.
“We already have anti-discrimination legislation which deals with these sensitivities in other areas, and that will apply also to religious faith.”
Scott Morrison said he hoped for “a sensible and adult debate about this one.”
Leigh Sales failed to ask if he also hoped the Titanic would not sink.
Further, he said he hoped the debate would keep people together.
He described protecting religion as a “core pillar” of society as not unreasonable.
“I think there are many millions of Australians who would like to see that protected, and I intend to follow through on that commitment,” Morrison said.
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