New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has described his reservations with the Morrison Government’s controversial Religious Discrimination Bill.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced the third draft of the legislation to Parliament last week.
However LGBTIQ advocates and legal experts slammed the new draft for permitting “more, not less, discrimination” through “very wide legal exemptions”.
Liberal Premier Perrottet, a devout Catholic, was asked for his views in a Sky News interview and described his hesitancy on the issue.
“I’ve always been pretty hesitant in relation to legislation like this,” he said.
“I think when you’re going down a path where you have the Parliament legislating freedom, that can cause a lot of challenges.
“A future government can then legislate to take those freedoms away.”
He went on, “We have to be careful. When the government gets involved in these types of areas, I think substantial challenges can transpire.
“I remember during the same-sex marriage debate, there was a lot of discussion about how people are going to get discriminated against here and discriminated against there.
“The wedding cake example, that the Christian bakers would have to close their businesses.
“None of that eventuated.”
Premier Perrottet added he would like to see bipartisan support for the Bill before it passed the parliament.
“We’ve got to be careful here in terms of rushing into legislation in this space,” he said.
“It hasn’t been relevant, we haven’t needed it for over a 100 years. Why now?”
Last week, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash referred the Religious Discrimination Bill to a parliamentary inquiry. It’s due to report next February.
Labor, Greens and Liberal MPs react to Religious Discrimination Bill
But on Tuesday Labor’s shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus confirmed the party won’t declare a position on the new draft until after the inquiry reports.
Labor Senate leader Penny Wong told the ABC last week the party “supports protection against religious discrimination.”
“[But] that protection should not come at the cost of reducing protections for other forms of discrimination,” she added.
“Our principal position is that this right – the right to practice your faith freely, which is a human right – should not be protected through the reduction of protections that other Australians have against forms of discrimination.
“We will work through the bill. But our principal position is the view I hold – a shield not a sword.”
The Greens have called on Labor to block the bill.
“The bill overrides State and Territory protections and makes bigoted hate speech legal,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.
“It goes beyond being a shield. It has many swords and they will do harm.
“The Greens support protections against religious discrimination, which is why Australia needs a charter of rights. But this bill isn’t that.”
Moderate Liberal MP Warren Entsch has declared he will refuse to vote for the bill until the inquiry reports.
“We need to look at it closely. We have only had a very short opportunity to look at it. I want it to go through the process,” he told The Australian.
“When you introduce legislation and try to push it through five minutes before midnight and say ‘everything is OK, trust me’, I have been around the place long enough to know that that is a recipe for all sorts of problems.”
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