Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said “preventative regulation and legislation” is required to protect freedom of religion in Australia from future threats.
In an interview on Sky News, Morrison said he was concerned about the “trajectory” of free speech and religious freedom in the last decade and new legislation was needed to protect from threats in the future.
Morrison said 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 – and Australians of faith shouldn’t be kept out of top jobs if their beliefs conflict with company policies.
“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 asked 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?”
The religious freedom review headed by Philip Ruddock was launched last year to placate conservatives following the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in December. The review panel reported to the federal government on May 18 but the report has not yet been released.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome warned the Morrison Government earlier this month it has no mandate to weaken existing 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.”