Politics

The Government Has Received The “Religious Freedom” Report, But We Can’t See It

But we have some hints about what it says.

The government’s long awaited review into “religious freedom” has been handed to the Prime Minister, but we’re unlikely to find out what’s in it.

The review was commissioned following the passage of marriage equality last year in an attempt by the Prime Minister to placate government conservatives, who failed to entrench wider LGBTIQ+ discrimination in the final bill.

It was run by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock, who was Attorney General when same-sex marriage was explicitly outlawed in 2004. LGBTIQ+ 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.

Throughout the review, advocates expressed concern over Ruddock’s behaviour, claiming they faced “hostile” questioning, and that he questioned whether young queer people really suffered disproportionately from mental health issues.

The final results of the inquiry were given to the Prime Minister today, but the PM’s office has said the report will not be immediately released publicly.

“I look forward to considering the report in detail and will consult with members of the Government before releasing it to the public and responding to its findings,” the PM said in a statement. Attorney General Christian Porter will lead the government’s response to the report.

So, What Do We Know?

Still, we got a little taste of what to expect thanks to a strategically placed story in News Corp’s Courier Mail this morning. The story described Ruddock’s recommendations as “sensible”, saying that discrimination laws would be changed to “better protect religious beliefs” — that means making it easier to discriminate against queer people.

Conservative cabinet minister Peter Dutton this morning defended the right of religious schools to fire queer teachers, or teachers who support marriage equality.

“It should be within the law for teachers to be employed at [a religious] school who share [that school’s] religious belief, not a contrary view,” he told Sky News.

Dutton also said that independent and religious schools should be able to teach a version of marriage that aligns with their religious beliefs.

“Australian law should include the ability to preach a religious belief either within a church or within a mosque or within a synagogue or within a school. That’s the reality.”

Advocates Demand To See Report

Greens Justice spokesperson, Senator Nick McKim has called on the government to release the full report, which he said was “clearly designed with the aim of making it easier to discriminate against LGBTIQ people.”

“The Prime Minister needs to release this report in its entirety, rather than just let Peter Dutton strategically leak parts of it and talk about it without anyone else seeing it,” he told Junkee. “The whole review was a bone Malcom Turnbull threw to the fundamentalists in his own party, and has been a stitch-up from day one.”

Prominent marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome has also called on the government to release the full report.

“The recommendations of the Ruddock Review will have a direct and possibly damaging impact on the LGBTI community, so it is vital the results are released immediately.”

“The devil will be in the detail and we deserve to see that detail straight away.”

“The Ruddock Review has operated under a cloud of alleged secrecy and bias so the least the Government can do is be honest and upfront now the Review’s work is done.”

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. He’s on Twitter @Rob_Stott.

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