Michael Kirby attacks Coalition for failure to release Ruddock religious freedom report
Australian politics Michael Kirby attacks Coalition for failure to release Ruddock religious freedom report
Former high court justice says secularism âat riskâ and Australians are right to be âsuspiciousâ of governmentâs plans
Michael Kirby has blasted the Coalition for failing to release the Ruddock review, warning that secularism is at threat and Australians are right to be âsuspiciousâ the government has not stated its plans on religious freedom.
The former high court justice told Radio National on Thursday it was âunusual in our information hungry societyâ that the Ruddock religious freedom report had not been released after five months. He also challenged the prime minister, Scott Morrison, for his decision to increase religious schoolsâ funding and over his comments about sexual diversity.
Kirby said the report had been handed to the Turnbull government in May and whatever it recommended âwasnât enough to convince the Turnbull government to do anything, certainly for a long whileâ.Kerryn Phelps urges PM to release Ruddock religious freedom review before byelection Read more
âWhat worries the secular members of our community â¦ is that something has been cooked-up, itâs being designed to give a lot more power and maybe some more money to the religious organisations in society.
âIt hasnât been released up to now â" now thatâs a long time in Australian politics, weâve lost another prime minister in that time â" and therefore the mind gets a bit suspicious, Iâm afraid.â
Kirby suggested concern was justified given âthe background of billions of dollars handed out to the faith communities and religious organisationsâ in the Morrison governmentâs $4.6bn Catholic and independent schools package and the Coalitionâs funding for the chaplaincy scheme, which he said âinvades public schools with religious chaplainsâ.
Asked whether religious Australians were right to worry about the impact of same-sex marriage, Kirby said that people âgenerally accept what the majority in parliament decideâ in a representative democracy despite there being âlots of things we donât agree on in Australiaâ.
Kirby praised the concept of secularism â" that in the public space âwe respect all religions or no religionâ â" and warned it was âat riskâ in b oth the United States and Australia, but Australia lacked the constitutional protection for secularism.
Asked what the Ruddock review was likely to find, Kirby said that there âare dangers in increasing the protectionsâ for religious freedoms and noted that many submissions had asked for religious protections to be rolled back. Many LGBTI groups called for religious exemptions to discrimination law to be repealed.
Kirby said that some people argue âwhen religion enters the marketplace, when itâs involved in providing education, healthcare, aged care, then theyâve just got to comply with the principles of openness â" secular principles â" to respect people of religion and of no religionâ.
Kirby noted that Morrison had âcome out strongly in favour of further protections for religious freedomsâ and had claimed to âlove all Australiansâ, which âmeans of course that he loves LGBTIQ peopleâ.
But Kirby noted Morrison had also said his â skin curled â" a very vivid metaphor â" when he heard that children in public schools were being educated in terms of respecting people of diverse sexualityâ.
Kirby said sexual diversity was âjust part of science, part of our natureâ.
âIf itâs being taught in public schools itâs simply telling children what they probably know already anyway, that there are LGBTIQ people in their midst,â he said. âIf private and religious schools are not telling them that, then theyâre letting them down in terms of their duty to look after all children in their care â" especially if theyâre receiving public money.âReligious freedom can be protected with 'tweaks', says Ruddock review member Read more
The content of the Ruddock review is still largely unknown, although one panel member has suggested religious freedom may require only âslight tweakingâ â" implying it recommended only minimal change.
Morrison has calle d for âpreventative regulation and legislationâ to prevent religious people being discriminated against because of their beliefs.
âWhy should you be denied a directorship or a partnership in a law firm or accountancy firm just because you happen to have expressed on Facebook or somewhere a particular religious belief?â Morrison said in September.
The independent candidate for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, has called on the Morrison government to release the Ruddock report before the 20 October byelection.
The attorney general, Christian Porter, has said the government has not released the Ruddock review because it is working on its response.
On 18 September the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, wrote to the government saying he was âdeeply concernedâ that it would not allow time for public consultation on the Ruddock review before announcing its response.
âThere is no reason for the government to keep the Ruddock report secret any lo nger,â he said. âIt is only fair that the Australian people, and interested groups in particular, are offered an opportunity to consider the report themselves.âTopics
- Australian politics
- LGBT rights
- Law (Australia)
- Scott Morrison
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