Politics

The Government Is STILL Refusing To Release Its “Religious Freedom” Report

If there's nothing to hide, why not just release it?

Ruddock Review into religious freedom.

The government is still refusing to release the Ruddock review into religious freedom, despite a demand from the Senate that it do so.

If you don’t remember, the review was commissioned by Malcolm Turnbull last year in an attempt to placate government conservatives, who failed to entrench wider LGBTIQ+ discrimination in the final marriage equality bill.

The review was run by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock, who was Attorney General when same-sex marriage was explicitly outlawed in 2004. Queer advocates feared it would be used as a backdoor to enshrine wider discrimination in law, such as allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay couples, or to allow wider discrimination in government-funded services such as education and aged care.

Ruddock handed the report to the government in May (!), but it’s remained a secret since then, and today the government once again refused to make it public, despite a motion that passed the Senate yesterday demanding that the government make the documents public.

The government responded to that request with a big “yeah, nah”. It’s claiming “public interest immunity” because the review remains before Cabinet, and the government hasn’t decided how it wants to respond to Ruddock’s findings.

Attorney General Christian Porter today said he would release the review at the same time as the government releases any proposed legislation — which means we’ll have less time to actually consider the review before politicians have to vote on it. And that follows the government’s refusal to make the Ruddock review public when it was first handed down. And in June, the Department Of Prime Minister & Cabinet refused Junkee’s Freedom of Information request to see the review.

So it’s all a bit secretive, isn’t it.

So, What’s Actually In The Ruddock Review?

Well we don’t know, do we? But we have some hints.

Shortly after the review was handed down, The Courier Mail described its recommendations as “sensible”, saying the review would better protect religious freedoms. At the same time, conservative Cabinet minister Peter Dutton went on Sky News and said religious schools should be able to fire queer teachers or teachers who support marriage equality, which sounds… bad.

The biggest thing that’s changed since the report was handed over is that we have a new Prime Minister. Scott Morrison is much, much more conservative than Malcolm Turnbull was and has already hinted at beefing up protections for “religious freedom”.

One of the ways Morrison is trying to introduce himself to Australia is by emphasising his strong religious convictions — he even told farmers that he would pray for rain, instead of, y’know, actually tackling climate change.

In an interview on Sky News, the PM admitted that religious freedom in Australia is actually fine now, but he’s worried about its “trajectory”.

“I send my kids to a Christian school. I think that Christian school should be able to ensure that they can provide education consistent with the Christian faith and teachings … I don’t think that school should be told who they can and can’t employ.”

Greens Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said the Greens would fight Scott Morrison “every step of the way” if he tries to entrench discrimination in law.

“The secrecy must end – to keep this report secret shows contempt for the public,” he told Junkee. “In particular, it shows contempt for the people whose rights are now at risk.”

Meanwhile, we won’t get to see the report that Cabinet is basing its decisions on until it’s too late. This all sounds fine, right?