Politics

Penny Wong Has Delivered An Emotional Message To Israel Folau On ‘Q&A’

"I wish that public figures, politicians, sporting stars, etc, might consider for a moment where their words land in vulnerable Australians."

Penny Wong has a message for Israel Folau on Q&A

Labor senator Penny Wong has delivered an emotional message to rugby star Israel Folau during an appearance on Monday night’s episode of Q&A.

Senator Wong was responding to a question about the religious freedom legislation being considered by the government in the wake of Folau’s sacking by Rugby Australia. In case you missed it (and honestly, well done if you did), Folau was found to have breached his contract after posting on Instagram that gay people were going to hell. He is currently suing Rugby Australia over the decision, arguing that he was unfairly dismissed due to his religious beliefs.

But as Senator Wong pointed out, there’s a difference between a person having a right to their beliefs, and thinking you should be treated differently under the law because of them.

“Can I say first, just on an emotional level, I wish that we could have more expressions of love and forgiveness rather than condemnation when it came to belief,” she said. “And I wish that public figures, politicians, sporting stars, etc, might consider for a moment … where their words land [for] vulnerable Australians.”

Senator Wong said Folau was “entitled to his beliefs”, but that it was important to remember that “he doesn’t speak for all Christians”

She also said that Australia was “an accepting, tolerant nation” and that “whatever happens in this current debate around religious freedom, I think we mustn’t lose sight of those key characteristics of Australian identity”.

“We don’t want to become less accepting, we don’t want to become less tolerant,” she said. “We don’t want to abrogate our agreed view that people are entitled to equality before the law, that we believe that people are equal regardless of gender, race, faith, sexuality, disability, etc.”

“I’m open to a discussion about how we deal with religious protections, but I would make this point, and I made this point during the marriage equality debate: there is a distinction between a right to belief and the assertion that that belief should lead to you being treated differently before the law.”

“I think we need to think very carefully about how we manage this debate,” she added. “I hope it can be in a way that’s not partisan. I hope it can be done respectfully. And I hope it can be done with the objective of ensuring that just as Australians of faith don’t wish to be discriminated against, Australians of other attributes also don’t wish to be discriminated against.”