Anthony Albanese Urged Not to ‘Betray’ Faith Groups

Religious leaders have informed Anthony Albanese it would be a “betrayal of trust” for Labor to team up with the Greens and implement the recommendations of a new Australian Law Reform Commission report removing protections for faith-based schools. A letter was sent to the Prime Minister last week bearing the signatures of 41 spiritual-leaders and educators urging him to honour his election commitment and “maintain the right of religious educational institutions to preference people of their own faith, and not to compromise this to secure the support of The Greens.” The letter advised Mr. Albanese not to abandon attempts to achieve bipartisan support for reforms that could protect religious freedoms and backed the cautious approach to change being taken by the Coalition. “We consider the reluctance of the Opposition to offer support to a legislative proposal for religious freedom which is – at this point – unseen and untested by faith communities to be reasonable and prudent, rather than an indication that a bipartisan approach endorsed by the faith communities is unachievable,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by former Labor Senator, Jacinta Collins, the executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission which represents the nation’s 1,756 Catholic schools which educate one in five Australian students. It was also signed by two of nation’s leading Catholic leaders – the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, and the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher. Archbishop Makarios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, also signed the letter along with the national vice president of the Hindu Council of Australia, Surinder Jain. The alliance of 41 faith leaders and educators – including a large number of Islamic and Christian groups – expressed “deep concerns” at the prospect consideration was being given to “negotiating with the Greens in order to implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and pass a religious discrimination bill.” “While the government has had access to the ALRC report since last year, it has only just been made available to those most affected by its recommendations, particularly religious schools.”

Only a select few have seen the two draft pieces of legislation, meaning there has been no opportunity for people of faith to offer detailed feedback to the government or the Opposition,” the letter went on to say. “We do not consider that any negotiation with the Greens will yield a result that provides any meaningful protections for religious freedom. The policies of the Australian Greens include removing exemptions for all religious organisations in anti-discrimination law, not only those related to religious schools contained in section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1987; replacing school chaplaincy programs with the contentious Safe Schools program; and making federal funding to hospitals – including those operated by religious organisations – contingent on the provision of abortion. We expect that any proposal supported by the Greens will be unfavourable to faith communities. If the Government chooses to abandon attempts at bipartisanship and work with the Greens, it will be interpreted by our faith communities as a betrayal of trust.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus last week tabled the long-awaited ALRC report which proposed removing section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act which allows religious schools to discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status. Under the proposed change, a new Religious Discrimination Act would be created to give religious institutions the ability to preference teachers based on their faith. The Australian has been informed the government’s draft laws reflect those ALRC recommendations. The Greens said they were willing to horse trade over religious discrimination reforms, but acknowledged their only interest was in better protecting queer and transgender students after Mr. Albanese left open the option of negotiating a deal with the minor party. This was despite Mr. Albanese last week declaring that he would only proceed with reforms to religious discrimination changes with bipartisan support from the Coalition.

The Greens have endorsed the ALRC report into educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws, with justice spokesman David Shoebridge saying, “we will do what it takes to get those laws through parliament”, adding that the Greens wanted to “work with the government to ensure that LGBTIAQ+ people are safe from discrimination, and protections against religious vilification are strengthened as well.” “The Greens support the package of reforms proposed by the ALRC and are prepared to sit down with Labor and discuss how to implement their intent,” he said. “Peter Dutton should not get a veto on the religious discrimination bill. If Anthony Albanese refuses to work with the Greens and crossbench to pass the religious discrimination bill, the Prime Minister is choosing to break an election promise.” Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said that “Mr. Albanese should listen to the pleas of these faith leaders and abandon any plans to do a dodgy deal with the Greens which will no doubt leave religious institutions in a much worse position.” “The Greens have held a long running hostility towards religious education and religious institutions.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Print This Post Print This Post

Comments are closed