Australia: Discrimination risk under new religion law

What one American’s case says about the future of the courts in Hong Kong

  What one American’s case says about the future of the courts in Hong Kong Samuel Bickett is trying to appeal his conviction — and prove the rule of law still exists in Hong Kong.Those were the undercurrents in Hong Kong when, walking through the Causeway Bay Station on December 7, 2019, Samuel Bickett saw a man hitting a teen with a baton.

People would still be subject to discrimination under the government's new religious freedom bill, despite the laws being watered down, according to opponents.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has been in charge of drafting religious discrimination laws. © Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has been in charge of drafting religious discrimination laws.

The government is expected to endorse its long-awaited laws when the coalition party room meets on Tuesday.

The laws were an election promise put forward by the government during the 2019 poll.

The bill has yet to be publicly released, but it's expected it will allow for religious schools to preference hiring people of the same faith, overriding state-based laws.

As PM winks, rogue senators threaten to sink government’s final lap of the year

  As PM winks, rogue senators threaten to sink government’s final lap of the year The Coalition's reactionary fringe and One Nation are throwing a spanner in the government's plans to pass some of its election promises.Add in the Morrison government’s strange plan to introduce voter identification laws, and hints that legislation for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament could be imminent, and there’s a lot on the table for the last sitting fortnight. And yet, it could all be blown up by the Coalition’s own conservative fringe.

It's also expected the bill will provide protection for medical professionals to not carry out certain procedures that conflict with their beliefs.

Chief executive of Equality Australia Anna Brown said while elements of the bill had been removed, it was still far-reaching.

"The scaling back has led to some significant improvements, but some of the worst parts of the bill remain," she told ABC Radio.

"This will allow someone to be given a defence to a discrimination complaint."

Yet to be publicly released, the bill seeks to provide greater protection for people making statements about their religious beliefs as long as they don't harass or vilify.

This would not protect people in situations akin to sports star Israel Folau's, who was dumped by Rugby Australia for claiming hell awaited gay people.

We all vote down here

  We all vote down here Good morning, early birds. George Christensen has joined a group of backbenchers threatening to hold their votes hostage unless state vaccine mandates are overturned, and Penny Wong accuses Peter Dutton of stoking tensions with China. It's the news you need to know, with Emma Elsworthy.Five senators crossed the floor yesterday voting for One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s anti-vaccine mandate bill, but it was defeated 44-5 anyway (they were Gerard Rennick, Alex Antic, Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and Sam McMahon, as Guardian Australia lists).

The axing of the so-called Folau clause was aimed at appeasing opposition to the bill among moderate members.

Ms Brown said the bill could allow for medical professionals to not carry out certain treatments, putting the lives of patients at risk.

"If a nurse says to someone with HIV that your HIV is a punishment from God, or if a support worker says to a young girl with a disability your disability is caused by the devil, they could constitute discrimination," she said.

While the bill has had several elements removed, religious bodies have said it was critical the legislation pass parliament following years of delay.

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said a watered down bill was better than none at all.

"Certainly, there are elements which are no longer going to be in the bill, which we would perhaps like to have in there," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

"But nonetheless, that something that goes forward that provides a basic protection for people of faith, alongside the various other areas of protections, are still important."

Archbishop Comensoli said people employed by Catholic schools should follow the mission of the organisation.

"If someone's conduct is such that they are completely contrary and acting in ways contrary to the mission of the organisation ... the organisation should be free to act accordingly," he said.

The bill does face an uphill battle, with crossbenchers including Rex Patrick and Rebekha Sharkie indicating they don't see why it's necessary.

Archbishop Comensoli said he thought there was bipartisan support for the bill and both sides of politics wanted the issue resolved before an election.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese maintains Labor is yet to see the bill and the government hasn't sought Labor support for it.

The religious right wants states’ tax dollars, and the Supreme Court is likely to agree .
An emboldened religious right wants the public to pay for its schools.“In the 19th century, Maine’s public schools expelled students for adhering to their faith,” they claim, citing one example of a Catholic student expelled for not completing lessons off a Protestant bible. Now, according to the brief, Maine is committing a similarly repugnant sin against religious people by refusing to pay state residents’ tuition at private religious schools.

See also