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Parliamentary inquiry urged for religious discrimination bill

The Australian Government has been urged to support a parliamentary inquiry into the religious discrimination bill when it is introduced by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.

Also known as the ‘Religious Freedom Bill’, the controversial proposed legislation would allow wide discrimination to be protected by the law if it purports to be based on religious belief.

It could see people refused services such as education and healthcare and would particularly affect marginalised groups such as women, LGBTIQ+ people, and First Nations people.

National LGBTIQ+ advocacy organisation Just.Equal Australia has written to leading members of both major political parties to call for an inquiry, in response to reports that Senator Cash does not believe one is necessary.

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome said that the bill would erode the rights of people in the community.

“If the previous drafts of this bill are anything to go by, it will take existing rights away from women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people, and others,” said Croome.

“Those Australians who will be deprived of their rights by this bill deserve to have their voices heard and concerns addressed.

“Previous consultations by the Government aren’t a substitute for a fully-fledged public inquiry by Parliament, particularly given the Government’s obvious interest in having this bill pass.”

LGBTIQ+ people and groups, including people of faith, have consistently denounced the bill and raised fears that it will harm the community.

Croome said Just.Equal Australia has written to the Attorney-General, shadow Attorney-General, leaders of both major parties, supporters of existing discrimination protections in both parties, the Greens, and Senate cross-benchers.

The Federal Government’s planning to avoid referring the bill to an inquiry was revealed this week.

Senator Cash said that the Labor would be pressured to avoid an inquiry because the Government “has conducted two rounds of public consultation on draft legislation and met face to face with over 90 stakeholders in a series of roundtables”.

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