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Government Abandons Religious Discrimination Bill For Now

Vivienne Kelly

Published 

Government Abandons Religious Discrimination Bill For Now

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

The Scott Morrison led Federal Government has shelved its controversial Religious Discrimination Bill and decided instead to pursue an investigation into its 'unintended consequences'.

The Religious Discrimination Bill has been in a state of flux over the past three years, with many drafts, debates and deliberations.

It was purportedly created to better protect the rights of religious Australians, however it has faced opposition for in fact allowing, and potentially even encouraging, other forms of discrimination.

The ABC noted the Federal Government was 'running out of time' to get the Bill across the line and anticipated that battles related to the Bill were 'expected to flare' this week.

Indeed, with a Federal election expected by May, there were just five Senate sitting days for the Bill to become law.

After a marathon session, the Bill passed the lower house in the early hours of Thursday morning, but various Liberal MPs crossed the floor to vote with the Opposition on a series of proposed changes to protect transgender children.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Had the Bill passed both houses of parliament, it would have created a new Religious Discrimination Act.

In the wake of backlash and uncertainty, however, the Government also proposed to amended S38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act.

This would have ensured religious schools could not expel students if they are homosexual.

Concerns from Labor, the Greens and a handful of Government MPs, however, remained about discrimination against transgender and gender diverse students, and the harm this would cause.

The Bill appeared before the Senate today, however following legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor, Attorney General Michaelia Cash avoided a vote and instead sought a Senate inquiry into the Bill's 'unintended consequences'.

NSW Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg had told the Government he was prepared to cross the floor to protect the rights of transgender kids.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his motivations for pushing the Bill through, saying it's about protecting people, and that he stands by it '100 per cent'.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

"For so many Australians, their faith and their religion is their culture. You can't separate them," he said.

"And when you listen to their stories, as I often do, they will tell stories over hundreds of years and even longer about how they... as a people of faith and religion have survived through some of the worst things you can possibly imagine in countries all around the world.

"But they came here to Australia so they could get away from that and they could start a new life.

"And so they could have their religious faith and they could have their belief and they could have their community and they could have their culture, and that they would not be discriminated against.

"I don't want them to be discriminated against, and before the last election I said I wanted there to be laws in place that ensured their freedom from that discrimination.

"And that's what this is about."

Topics: News, Scott Morrison, Australia

Vivienne Kelly
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