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TravelGuides – Scott Morrison promises Senate inquiry to calm fears over religious discrimination bill | Australian politics

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TravelGuides – Scott Morrison promises Senate inquiry to calm fears over religious discrimination bill | Australian politics

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, will introduce a revised religious discrimination bill to parliament this week, promising to refer it to a Senate inquiry to calm fears it could water down protections for gay teachers and students.

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Declaring the new bill balanced “freedoms and responsibilities” for people of faith, Morrison told MPs on Tuesday that he wanted to introduce the bill in the lower house to fulfil the pledge he made to faith leaders before the 2019 election.

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Debate and a vote on the legislation will not be held until next week – the final sitting week of the year, and potentially the last before the election.

There is a growing expectation that Labor will also support the bill’s passage to the Senate, on the understanding the subsequent scrutiny in the upper house will see it amended.

Morrison said that after prolonged consultation, the attorney general, Michaelia Cash, had landed a “sensible and reasonable bill”.

“It is a religious discrimination bill, not a religious freedoms bill, and that is important in relation to it being a shield not a sword and to allow the freedoms of people to follow their faith,” he said.

But Morrison’s reassurance that the bill would protect freedom of belief and expression, but stopped short of allowing discrimination against others, was disputed by some Coalition MPs, with many expressing concern in Tuesday’s partyroom meeting about its impact on minority groups.

Equality advocates have also disputed the claim made by Morrison, warning it overrides state discrimination laws, particularly with protections for statements of belief.

Liberal moderates expressed concerns, including Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, Reid MP Fiona Martin; North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman and Bass MP Bridget Archer, who raised concerns about the provisions on statements of belief; senator Andrew Bragg, who expressed concerns about gay teachers; and Wentworth MP Dave Sharma, who expressed concerns about gay kids.

Bragg and Sharma both suggested that protections for gay teachers and students should be considered at the same time, not 12 months after the religious discrimination legislation.

Martin, whose inner-city Sydney electorate has a mix of both socially liberal voters and religious communities, said that even religious communities were comfortable with the status quo.

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An evenly matched roster of speakers were in favour of the bill including Matt Canavan, Ben Small, Julian Leeser, Melissa McIntosh and Nicolle Flint.

Canavan questioned if international law can be used to override states on religious discrimination why the same was not true of vaccine mandates, earning a rebuke from Scott Morrison that the contribution was off-topic.

Small suggested it was absurd that religious groups would use legal changes to persecute minorities, while Leeser defended the right of religious institutions like a Catholic university to preference members of their own faith.

Liberal senator Hollie Hughes sought reassurance that the bill would not have a detrimental effect on people with a disability. Angie Bell insisted the bill would need to go to a committee inquiry.

While Zimmerman suggested this should be a joint select committee, so both MPs and senators could have input, Morrison said it would be dealt with by a Senate committee in the normal way, which indicates the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee will deal with it.

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Backbench MPs and the Labor party were provided with a copy of the revised legislation on Tuesday, with the new bill removing the controversial Folau clause, but retaining the protection for statements of belief and a clause that gives faith-based institutions the ability to discriminate on the basis of faith.

Earlier on Tuesday the One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, said her party would not support the bill unless it went to a Senate committee.

At the Labor caucus meeting, one member of the opposition asked whether anyone knew what was going on in the Coalition party room on the religious discrimination bill.

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, responded: “When we receive a bill, we will deal with it in the normal way. I support religious freedom.

“People need to be able to practise their faith. It’s extraordinary that there has been no attempt from the government to work with us on this issue.”

TravelGuides – Scott Morrison promises Senate inquiry to calm fears over religious discrimination bill | Australian politics

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