The Religious Discrimination Bill was promised by the present Liberal (Coalition) government amidst the same-sex marriage debate in 2017 to provide extra protection for people of religious faith, strengthen protections for religious institutions, hire workers in line with their beliefs, and protect medical workers who refuse treatment due to their religious obligations. It took the coalition government a few years to finally complete the bill resolving and filling all the gaps, the first draft was released in 2019, and now finally, the Prime Minister has introduced it in the parliament.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, while introducing the bill said, the government has fixed an important weakness in our discrimination laws which the government had promised to the people of Australia in the last election. He said, laws needed to protect citizens in a tolerant, multicultural, and liberal democracy. There has been the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act, Racial Discrimination Act, Disability Discrimination Act, and an Age Discrimination Act, however, there was no standalone legislation to protect people from religion or faith discrimination, or for those who choose not to have a faith or religion.
“The protection of what we choose to believe in a free society is essential to our freedom, in a liberal democracy, it is like oxygen and so it is only right we should expect that what we sincerely believe should be afforded the same protection from discrimination in a free liberal democracy, like any other protected attributes of our humanity, such protections respect the true integrity and dignity of the individual. It’s what makes them who they are, who we are, how we choose to live their life following the laws of this land, this bill puts this right,” said Scott Morrison.
Praising the context of the bill, Prime Minister Morrison said, this bill is sensible and balanced. It is the product of a tolerant and mature society that understands the importance of faith and belief to a free society, while not seeking to impose those beliefs, or even seek to injure others in the expression of those beliefs. The bill balances freedom with responsibilities.
This bill is about helping protect what we value as Australians: difference, fairness, choice, charity, and if we are not hurting others, the right to live our lives as we choose to.
If this bill is passed and becomes a law, it will create a balance between fairness, choice, and fulfilling religious obligations. The new law will provide freedom to the religious school, health, and health care centers to recruit staff according to their faith requirements and background. It will also assist the management to follow their religious practices. For example, Islamic schools can freely implement a policy for students to wear an Islamic dress or headscarf. Islamic schools can advertise for teaching jobs only for teachers of the Islamic faith, similarly, Christian and Jewish schools can also do the same fulfilling their faith requirements.
The patients in the hospital will without hesitation ask for their dietary, cultural, or religious needs and the management must follow as per law. A residential aged care facility will need to provide services to their clients according to their faith essentials.
Once the bill becomes law, a position for a religious discrimination commissioner would also be created within the Human Rights Commission.
Acknowledging and supporting this new bill, I would like to request the honourable Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, parliamentarians, and lawmakers to take further action and make punishment laws to protect the respect and honour of the Holy Books and Messengers of God for all religions. No one should be allowed to disrespect or humiliate any Holy Book (The Quran, The Bible, The Torah, The Tanakh, The Vedas, The Granth, The Tipitaka, or any other) and the Holy Prophets and Messengers of God.
For example, when a problem-creator says something, writes something, or displays an image that disrespects the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it hurts Muslims across the globe.
The Muslim community does not tolerate insults or abuse directed at Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or the Holy Quran that causes chaos and irreparable damage to the multicultural and multifaith society.
Australia is a multicultural and multifaith nation with a sense of sensitivity to religious beliefs, their emotions, and the feelings of their adherents.
Australia has never experienced an incident abuse to the Holy Book or Prophet, but if you look at what has happened around the world, such as in France, it caused protests in Islamic countries when someone insulted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Instead of condemning the action of an individual, the French President backed the action of a person, and that led to worldwide agitation, tension, and unhealthy relations created between France and many Islamic countries. And the same case is for Christians if someone abuses or insults Jesus (PBUH), we must protect Australia from these poisonous people. We must protect Australia from these types of shameful incidents and sick-minded people who abuse or insult any religion.
Therefore, It is also necessary to pass laws that prohibit people from disrespecting or dishonouring any Holy Book or Prophet in Australia.