Attorney-General Christian Porter has released draft laws aimed at protecting people of faith from discrimination.
Mr Porter released an “exposure draft” of the religious discrimination legislation during a speech at The Great Synagogue in Sydney on Thursday.
The laws are designed to protect people from being discriminated against, but will not give them a licence to discriminate against others.
It will be similar to other existing anti-discrimination laws, such as those covering age, race and disability.
Mr Porter said properly understanding the role faith played for many Australians was the critical starting point for legislation dealing with religious expression.
“We should take great effort not to underestimate how important religion is to individual Australian lives,” he told religious leaders in Sydney.
“It should not be underestimated how important religion is to the composition and life of the Australian nation.”
Some faith-based groups boycotted the speech after claiming they were blindsided by the release of the draft legislation.
The laws could be passed by the end of the year, but they will not deal with how schools deal with gay staff and students.
The Australian Law Reform Commission is separately looking at religious exemptions to discrimination laws, with a report due early next year.
It wants to protect the right of religious institutions to conduct their affairs in a way consistent with their religious ethos.
Labor says it will support modest changes to anti-discrimination laws to protect people of faith, but not broad-ranging reforms.