While active listening is certainly a key trait for leadership, another is being prepared to sit down at the table with all sides to hear a range of views.
Regrettably, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has so far opted not to extend that opportunity to secular, atheist, rationalist or humanist groups as part of public consultations on the government’s divisive draft Religious Discrimination Bill.
Last week, Albanese and his Labor colleagues held a private meeting with 25 representatives from community groups. Through information provided to the press via LGBTIQ campaigner Rodney Croome, we learnt that these stakeholders were from health services, human rights groups, law councils, unions, business lobbies, and women’s, LGBTIQ and disability advocacy groups.
This followed the extensive meetings Labor held with a large number of faith leaders at Parliament House in October.
Given that more than 30 per cent of the population declares itself to have ‘no religion’ and that the overwhelming majority of Aussies support the separation of church and state, National Secular Lobby president Peter Monk said it was concerning to see Labor overlooking the secular viewpoint.
“It’s disappointing that, as far as we’re aware, there was no invitation made to groups in the secular, atheist, rationalist and humanist space for last week's meeting.”
Peter said the mixed signals coming from Labor was causing confusion about the party’s support for secularism.
Labor has so far taken no in-principle position about the extensive religious privileges that the Morrison government is seeking for religious institutions and religious people at the expense of everyone else.
Indeed, some in Labor, such as Catholic members of parliament Deborah O'Neill and Michelle Rowland, have actively advocated for expanded religious privileges. Senator O’Neill slammed what she described as an "ascendancy of language around secularity" that she believed was trying to silence the perspectives of people of faith.
But so far, it has been secular Australia that has been silenced – by the government and the opposition – in the process of drafting this bill.
Anthony, we do hope to receive an invite to discuss these issues sometime soon!