Weekend Wrap for 23 November 2019
Despite widespread rejection of his draft bill, Attorney-General Christian Porter looks set to EXPAND religious privileges even further when he introduces it to parliament soon. Your regular Wrap includes plenty of news and views on the controversial bill, plus on the progress of voluntary assisted dying in Western Australia.
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The National View
Faith-operated hospitals and aged-care providers will gain the ability to hire and fire staff on the basis of their religion under changes to the draft Religious Discrimination Bill, as announced by Attorney-General Christian Porter in a speech at the National Press Club (SMH).
The health of people living in rural and remote communities would be put at risk if the Morrison government’s proposed laws allowed religious health practitioners to refuse services on religious grounds, the Australian Medical Association has warned (ABC).
LGBTIQ+ advocates have called on the parliament to reject the Morrison government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, arguing that new changes to expand privileges to taxpayer-funded hospitals and aged-care services would further exclude members of their community (Q News).
Just.equal spokesman Brian Greig has criticised Labor leader Anthony Albanese for being “unacceptably silent” on the proposed religious freedom bill, saying that the community was looking for Labor to take a strong stand in opposition to it (Star Observer).
At a forum for religious freedom in western Sydney, federal Labor MP and Catholic Michelle Rowland revealed that she has called on her Labor colleagues to “elevate” the issue as she believed religious people had lost faith in the party (Eternity News).
Religious groups and commentators have attacked the Australian Human Rights Commission for questioning the appropriateness of religious organisations enjoying exemptions to anti-discrimination laws that ‘freeze in time’ community standards (Catholic Weekly).
The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader condemned comments by Israel Folau that suggested bushfires sweeping Australia were punishment by his god for same-sex marriage (The Guardian).
The Australian Christian Lobby has refused to distance itself from Israel Folau following the former rugby star’s comments linking the bushfires to same-sex marriage, with Martyn Iles arguing that “nobody knows God's mind” or why bad things happen (SMH).
Only four out of 10 Australians believe that religion is a force for good in our society, according to new research by National Church Life Survey (Eternity News).
Around the Country
WA: The McGowan government has criticised the Upper House for taking so long to scrutinise its bill to introduce voluntary assisted dying in the state, although criticism has come from within the government about some gaps in the bill that make it “pretty poor legislation” (WA Today).
WA: Earlier in the week, the Labor government introduced amendments to its voluntary assisted dying bill to address the concerns of some medical professionals and the Australian Medical Association (WA Today).
QLD: Townsville Catholic Bishop Tim Harris has defended his comments likening voluntary assisted dying to “the mentality that existed in Nazi Germany” (Catholic Leader).
QLD: Asked about the status of voluntary assisted dying in Queensland, federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese expressed his support for “a properly regulated system” such as in Victoria (ABC Radio; listen from the 28:10 minute mark).
Commentary and Analysis
In this podcast from earlier this month (which we missed in our earlier Wrap), journalist Paul Karp and commentator David Marr take a deeper look at the genesis of the Religious Discrimination Bill and what it entails (The Guardian).
Religious groups remain concerned that the interpretation of their doctrines will be left up to the courts when institutions and individuals bring claims of religious discrimination, writes Mark Fowler (The Australian).
Ali Hogg writes that the unpredictable consequences of the proposed religious freedom laws are likely to provide a greater chance for those in the religious Right to paint themselves as victims (Jacobin Magazine).
The sluggish progress of the voluntary assisted dying bill through the Upper House in Western Australia increases the risk of a negative community backlash for the Liberal Opposition Leader if legislation is not passed by Christmas, writes Jacob Kagi (ABC).
That's it for another week!
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