Victorian independent MP Fiona Patten has said that if the federal government’s Religious Freedom Bill ever becomes law, it should be challenged by the Victorian government. “If this bill passes in any form that overrides Victoria’s strong anti-discrimination laws, the State Government must launch a High Court Challenge” she said.
Next week the Victorian Legislative Council will debate and hopefully pass laws that will bring religious institutions into line with all other organisations. The laws will close the exemptions that allowed religious institutions to discriminate against someone on grounds such as sex, religion, sexuality, marital status or parental status.
The closure of these unnecessary exemptions is in line with the community attitudes of Victorians but the Federal bill will overrule these changes.
“This bill tramples human rights and states’ rights. Were it to pass, it would sideline Victoria’s anti-discrimination tribunal, and, in effect, create and enshrine a right to be a bigot” she said. “In fact they don’t just overrule Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws they effectively redefine them. This is completely out of step with the principals of our federation.”
“How could anyone hold that it is OK for an aged care facility, for example, to publish an ad for staff that said no Jews or Muslims need apply?
“I have fought this for years. In 2019, I debated the Australian Christian Lobby’s Martin Iles at the National Press Club on religious freedom bill, and it was evident those on the other side of the issue actually believed the bill didn’t go far enough”.
Ms Patten said that the federal Bill was dangerous, ideological and contrary to fundamental human rights.
“Discrimination bills should provide shields not swords. The Prime Minister’s bill is a disgrace” she said.
“And it comes from a man who has refused to condemn his paster, mentor and friend, disgraced former Hillsong cult leader Brian Houston, who has been charged with allegedly concealing information about child sexual abuse following a two-year investigation”.
“Rather than currying favour with religious extremists, Scott Morrison would do far better to show he has some moral fibre and finally, unambiguously denounce Brian Houston. And fix or drop this appalling bill”.
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