Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
The second part of this amendment would amend the Charities Act, the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act unnecessarily. Labor opposes this second part of the amendment, but not because of any lack of support for religious charities in Australia. Of course religious charities provide essential and valuable services for the Australian community, but their charitable status will not be changed due to their stance on marriage. Both the charities commissioner and the tax commissioner have confirmed that this amendment to those three acts is unnecessary.
The bolstering of the ability of religious bodies that is defined in the Sex Discrimination Act to satisfy tests for charitable fringe benefits and deductible gift recipient status is completely unnecessary and of uncertain legal effect. I will say this too: these amendments incorrectly and unhelpfully imply that there is somehow a threat posed to religious organisations in these respects by reason of the amendments to the Marriage Act. This set of amendments stems from a baseless concern. The tax commissioner, Chris Jordan, has confirmed that an organisation's position on marriage equality will have no impact on tax deductible status. I want to make it clear: there is no reason for religious charities to fear they will be impacted adversely if marriage equality becomes law.
The member for Mallee has repackaged parts of the abandoned Paterson bill on this issue. He is drumming up baseless fears in this debate, and so are other speakers, and unnecessarily scaring people with a religious objection to marriage equality. I will say it again: Labor supports religious freedoms. Labor has no problem with a debate on how to protect religious freedoms, but this is not the right time or place. The Prime Minister has set up a process for the new year, creating a panel led by Philip Ruddock. He will be assisted by eminent Australian lawyer Ros Croucher, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Annabelle Bennett, a former Federal Court judge, and Father Frank Brennan. They will be discussing and considering and reporting on these matters in detail, and that is the right place and the right time for having this debate. The government MPs who are proposing and supporting this second part of the amendments could do a great deal better in respecting their Prime Minister's own process. Labor will be opposing this second part of the amendments.