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‘Achievable’: Porter insists religious discrimination bill can become law

Public submissions on the bill closed earlier this month, releasing an avalanche of diverse criticisms from across the political and religious spectrum.

Anglican, Catholic and Muslim representatives are among those urging the government to increase the provisions for Australians of faith, saying the current bill does not go far enough. Meanwhile, the Uniting Church and LGBTQI groups  say the bill will open the door to discrimination against vulnerable groups and want the government to wind back clauses around statements of religious belief and conscientious objection for health workers.

Business groups strongly object to plans to enforce new rules on companies with revenue of $50 million or more, limiting the restrictions they can place on employees expressing controversial religious beliefs outside of work hours.

limiting the restrictions they can place on employees expressing controversial religious beliefs outside of work hours.

“The next step before introduction is to consider how submissions might inform further amendments to the draft bill,” he said.

This comes as Labor maintains a watching brief on the process – with MPs noting they do not need to have a stance on a draft – and the Senate crossbench flags serious concerns with what’s on offer so far. Centre Alliance’s Senator Patrick, whose vote will be crucial if Labor does not support the bill, said he is not convinced Australia even has a problem with religious discrimination.

“It’s just a can of worms,” he said of the proposed bill, which would outlaw religious discrimination in many public situations including employment, education, access to premises, goods and services and sport. “Is this really a problem that needs to be solved?”

Due to the complexity of the issue, Senator Patrick added he was “not sure” the draft bill would “progress” beyond a planned Senate inquiry, which is expected once it is introduced to Parliament.

“You can talk to five different people and get six opinions,” he said.

Elsewhere on the Senate crossbench, a spokesperson for Senator Jacqui Lambie confirmed the Tasmanian continued to have serious reservations about the need for the bill, adding it was not an issue that constituents approached her about.

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The Greens are also likely to vote against the bill, having previously described it as a “Trojan horse … to enshrine religious discrimination into law”, while One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has worried it might encourage radical Islam.

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