Protections against discrimination are a hallmark of free civil society.
In recent census results, most Australians aligned themselves with a religious faith, with only 30% of Australians nominating ‘no religion’.
This week in Parliament, the Federal Government took an important step to provide people of faith with the protections they deserve through the introduction of the Religious Discrimination Bill.
In a fair and just society no person should be subject to public ridicule because of their religious conviction, any more than on the grounds of other personal attributes such as sex, race, intellectual or physical ability. It is unthinkable.
There is a gap in our current legal framework in Commonwealth legislation against any form of discrimination. As a nation, we need to draw a line in the sand against religious discrimination.
Freedom of faith is a defining characteristic of a liberal democracy.
One does not have to look far or throughout history to find circumstances where people of religious faith have endured persecution and vilification. The notion of freedom and democracy has come from those with foundations of faith. This is certainly true of Australia.
For centuries, religious groups and faith-based organisations have served our nation. Providing charities, education, hospitals and aged care. The Salvos and Lifeline are two such examples. They bridge a vital gap in society where the state cannot serve.
For the individual – faith strengthens them and provides hope.
This Bill before parliament seeks middle ground which gives no space for vilification but has been set in good faith with wide contribution. This Bill offers protection, it is not a weapon to undermine other protected attributes.
This Bill does not tolerate harassment, vilification, or any kind of intimidation. Religious people of all faiths and those with no faith are offered protections in this Bill.
Freedom of religion means that we don’t cancel people because their belief doesn’t align with our own.
The Religious Discrimination Bill seeks to uphold, honour, and protect people of faith across this country.
As Chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights I am calling for a public inquiry to allow people opportunity for feedback in January, at the request of the Attorney General. This is our way in a fair democracy.