Religious discrimination bill set to make a comeback, Kevin Andrews says


christian porter kevin andrews john howard religious discrimination bill
Photos: ABC News/YouTube/Sky News Australia

Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrew says Attorney-General Christian Porter will soon unveil a new iteration of the Morrison Government’s controversial religious discrimination bill.

Andrews made the comments during a Family Voice Australia webinar earlier this month on the progress of the bill.

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He told Family Voice Australia he and other government MPs have worked with Attorney General Christian Porter on developing the next draft of the legislation.

“I, and I suspect other members of parliament, at least on the Coalition side, have had widespread and ongoing consultation with the Attorney,” he said.

“We’ve worked on that for a period of a good 12 months.”

Andrews said Porter has the new iteration of the Bill ready to present to Parliament. Andrews said he hopes the Attorney General introduces it shortly so it can pass before the next federal election.

“It’s a compromise in some regards, because there are various people with various issues and various concerns,” he said.

“But I think overall if enacted it would be a huge step in terms of protecting freedom of religion in Australia compared to where we are at the present time.

“No compromise is ever perfect but politics is often about compromise and trying to move forward.”

Last month, Kevin Andrews lost Liberal preselection for his federal seat of Menzies, ending his political career at the next federal election.

Attorney-General will introduce new religious discrimination bill at ‘appropriate time’

Attorney-General Christian Porter revealed a second draft of the bill in December 2019. However LGBTIQ advocates slammed that draft as even worse than the original.

Equality Australia says the latest draft “threatens our access to healthcare, and undermines inclusive workplaces, schools and services.”

“Laws which should protect religious people from discrimination will hand a license to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others.”

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Former judge Michael Kirby said the draft laws allow Australians to use “religious belief as a weapon against non-believers”.

He claimed the bill “breaches universal human rights by unfairly privileging religion over other attributes such as race, sex, disability and age.”

“Instead of acting as a shield to protect people’s religious beliefs, this bill would be a sword to harm those with different beliefs,” he said.

Christian Porter was reportedly preparing to introduce the bill early last year before the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the agenda.

On the next draft, Christian Porter told the Guardian, “The government’s immediate priorities are protecting the health of all Australians and addressing the unprecedented economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government will revisit its legislative program as the situation develops.

“[We will] bring the religious discrimination bill forward at an appropriate time.”

John Howard backs ‘absolute right’ of religious schools’ to discriminate

John Howard has also weighed in on religious freedom in a separate address to Family Voice Australia.

The former Prime Minister supported “the absolute right of faith-based schools… to teach the precepts of the faith which guides that school.”

Howard said he wants federal legislation to protect faith schools’ ability to hire and fire staff. He argued the schools should have similar protections to those given to political parties.

“I wouldn’t expect the Labor party to employ somebody in their office or on the staff of a Labor member who was a card-carrying member of the Liberal party,” he said.

Howard also took aim at Victoria’s world-leading ban on harmful conversion practices against gay and transgender people.

The Victorian legislation outlaws trying to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Victorian government developed the legislation in consultation with survivors.

However John Howard claimed the legislation goes too far and encouraged opponents to lobby to repeal it.

“On the face of it seems to me completely unnecessary legislation. [The law] interferes potentially with individual rights and parental rights and parental responsibilities,” he said.

“If people believe it goes too far they should voice those concerns as vigorously as they want to, to any member of the Victorian upper house they can.”

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