GOVERNMENT FORCED TO DELAY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the government was forced to delay plans to introduce religious discrimination laws until 2020 as some religious groups weren’t satisfied with the protections offered under the draft legislation.  “Some groups are saying there are issues that need to be tackled, that’s why we’ll do another round of consultation, but it’s not like we’ve been sitting on our heels,” Senator Canavan said.  Canavan said he understood religious groups needed “greater certainty” on who was exempt from the provisions, but praised Attorney-General Christian Porter, for the “fantastic job he had done in consulting widely with a range of groups”.

“We’ll put out an updated bill with some changes from the previous one and more consultation before we take to the parliament directly.  And then there’ll be a parliamentary inquiry I’d imagine as well.  So there’ll be a lot of time here to try and get this right,” he said.  “At the fundamental level, we’ve got to get this right.  These sort of legislative changes have long standing ramifications over time as courts interpret them, it’s very important that we get that as correct as possible.”  Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Facebook to announce he was delaying the bill until 2020.

“So, we’re going to take a bit more time to get this right.  We’ll have the draft exposure bill out over the summer to get it in and next year, bring a bill into the parliament to make it law,” Mr Morrison said in video, filmed in front of a Christmas tree.  “There will be some who will try to make this process more difficult or be opportunistic or try to derail it.  They’re not engaging in good faith. I’m engaging in good faith with the Australian people and people of all different beliefs to ensure that we can get this law right.  It’s an important protection for our society in Australia.”

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher supported the prime minister’s decision to delay the bill for further consideration.  A spokesman for the church said: “The Archbishop of Sydney has said that he is pleased that the government has listened to the concerns of people of faith and welcomes the opportunity for further consultation and looks forward to seeing the second exposure draft very soon.” Attorney-General Christian Porter initially promised the bill would be introduced before Christmas.  Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen described the bill as “friendless”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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