Anthony Albanese is under pressure from frontbench Labor MPs to “work constructively” with Scott Morrison to pass religious freedom legislation that enshrines the right of schools and charities to teach faith-based ideology, including the traditional view of marriage.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi is planning to reintroduce his Protected Freedoms Act into parliament later this year which will protect a range of freedoms Australians currently enjoy, not only religious freedoms.
The Australian reports, Senior Labor MPs yesterday warned that the swing against the party in faith-based communities – mainly in western Sydney seats – had galvanised support in the new Opposition Leader’s partyroom for new laws to protect religious institutions from being accused of discrimination.
The Labor push to bolster support for religious groups comes as Scott Morrison prepares to table a Religious Discrimination Act in parliament by the end of the year, acting on recommendations in the Ruddock review into religious freedom.
During the election campaign, the Prime Minister said the new religious discrimination laws would provide the same protections of anti-discrimination for people of religious faith, as it did for “people of different genders, LGBTIQ, others” .
A senior Labor frontbencher said there were concerns among some religious schools and faiths that a government of either persuasion might decide to cut funding for a school or charity because they were teaching a traditional version of marriage.
“There is a view from some people that (protection) may not be required in law because it is already covered in the Racial Discrimination Act,” the senior Labor MP said. “Sometimes it is good, even if laws aren’t strictly necessary, for the sake of absolute certainty to put it in law.”
Labor MPs also attacked former ALP leader Bill Shorten over his criticism of Mr Morrison in the final week of the election campaign for not explicitly stating that he did not believe gay people would go to hell. They described the tactic as a “very poorly timed intervention” that made it look as though “we were persecuting people , particularly Christians, and their beliefs” .
Senior frontbenchers Kristina Keneally, Tony Burke and Michelle Rowland yesterday added to warnings that people of faith were turning against Labor. Chris Bowen last week declared: “People of faith no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them.”
Senator Keneally, Labor’s new deputy leader in the upper house, savaged Labor’s campaign as being “tone deaf” to the concerns of religious people.
“We lost them on the more traditional , touchstone culture and social issues,” Senator Keneally said. “I think it is because we were tone deaf. If you take the issue of religious freedom, I see a growing concern of people of faith that in this Twitter world, the instant response world we live in, that they are going to be ganged up upon.
“The Israel Folau matter, which was frankly a contract issue, spoke to a broader concern people had, and understandably so, that in expressing their faith they are going to be howled down by other people in the community. The extent to which Labor wasn’t seen to be standing up for people of faith did hurt us,” she said.
In November last year Senator Bernardi told Leon Byner on Adelaide radio station FIVEaa the government must justify any erosion of our rights if we are to maintain our national sovereignty.