After further considering the hundreds of submissions that have been made to the Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Act (RDA), the Government decided earlier this week to issue a revised and further exposure draft of the RDA Bill to reflect the Government’s response to the consultation to date and provide further opportunity for engagement.
This second and final exposure draft will be released before the end of the year, and will take account of issues raised and provide the opportunity to respond to the revisions made and fine tune the Bill before it is introduced next year.
Our Government takes the issue of discrimination against Australians for their religious beliefs very seriously. We made a commitment to Australians to address this issue at the last election and we are keeping faith with that commitment in a calm and considered process. We’re about listening and getting this right.
Recent statements by Labor seem to be opportunistically trying to derail and discredit this highly consultative and patient process. This is disappointing and betrays a lack of genuine commitment by Labor to the principle that Australians who hold sincere religious beliefs in this country deserve the same legal protections that are rightly provided in other areas such as gender and race. During the election Labor did not stand up for Australia’s many religious communities, and it seems nothing has changed.
Once the Bill is introduced to the Parliament there will also be the opportunity for further engagement through the normal parliamentary process.
Our Government will continue to proceed on the basis of good faith with a view to having a balanced and common sense Bill that protects the important religious freedoms that Australians can sadly no longer take for granted.
I would like to thank the Attorney General for leading this process, all parliamentary colleagues who have engaged sincerely in this process, especially my Government Members and Senators who represent a broad cross section of views, the many religious and non-religious bodies who have also engaged in this process, and Australians of faith and of no faith for the way they have raised issues in a constructive way that enables the Government to take this important agenda forward.
I thank everyone for their constructive patience on this issue and I am sure it will lead to a strong and enduring outcome.