News National New laws to ban religious discrimination

New laws to ban religious discrimination

The review will be released seven months after Philip Ruddock first made the recommendations. Photo: AAP
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Religious discrimination will be made illegal under a new stand-alone law the Morrison government plans to take to the next federal election.

A Religious Discrimination Act is one of the central recommendations from former Liberal minister Phillip Ruddock’s long-awaited review into religious freedoms, due to be released on Thursday.

Labor are open to the legislation in-principle, but want to see the detail before committing to backing it.

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie said age and sex already had laws preventing discrimination, arguing Australia’s multi-cultural faiths should be protected.

“Discrimination in any form in this country is an anathema to how we view ourselves as Australians and the fair-go ethos that our entire nation has been built on,” Senator McKenzie told ABC radio.

She admitted she had not felt her Christian faith personally threatened but pointed to reports of people losing their jobs for religious stances as evidence new laws are required.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter will release the Ruddock review almost seven months after the government was handed the recommendations.

Labor frontbencher Mark Butler accused Mr Morrison and his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull of sitting on the report, which was commissioned during last year’s same-sex marriage postal survey.

“We could have been debating over the course of 2018 the recommendations, but instead we’ve got the review dropped out on the eve of Christmas in the shadow of a federal election,” Mr Butler said.

The coalition and Labor were unable to agree on legislation to protect gay students from discrimination by religious schools in the year’s final week of parliament.

The government will refer this to the Australian Law Reform Commission for review after a leak from Mr Ruddock’s report inflamed the issue in October.

Mr Butler called for faster action, saying under usual arrangements an ALRC review would take up to 12 months.

“Students face the prospect of at least another full school year open to discrimination in religious schools,” he said.