Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Questions without Notice
Religious Freedom Review
My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is refusing to act on removing discrimination against LGBTI teachers until after the government has released the Ruddock report. Why is the Prime Minister keeping the Ruddock report a secret until after the Wentworth by-election? After five months, why do Australians, including voters in Wentworth, have to wait until after the by-election to know what the government will do? If the Prime Minister isn't planning anything harmful, what does he have to hide?
All the recommendations of the report have been reported in the press already, and they're out there. They're well known. They're out there. What I am doing is ensuring that the government's response will be prepared and will be provided in an orderly way, and that will provide the opportunity for this parliament to properly consider what are very sensitive and complex issues that the member for Isaacs has properly recognised as being quite difficult to work through. There are many different views in this chamber and outside of this chamber, and I think we should work together to resolve those and deal with these matters in an orderly way.
It was only a week ago that the member for Sydney, when asked, 'Should these laws be abolished and should we have this discrepancy?' said, 'Look, it's not Labor's plan to reduce any existing exemptions.' That was her policy a week ago. Now she's coming in here and lecturing us on laws that the Labor Party introduced and took through their cabinet, which provided the very discriminations that she is now saying should be reversed and only a week ago said shouldn't be reversed. So forgive me if the government is going it take a more responsible and orderly process to provide our response. Seven weeks ago, just over, I took on the role of Prime Minister. I had not seen that report prior to that time. It had not been to cabinet to be considered at that time. In the last seven weeks, I've been focusing on the drought, I've been focusing on small- and family-business tax cuts, I've been focusing on a royal commission into residential aged care, and I've been focusing on electricity prices and bringing them down. These are the issues that I have been focusing on as Prime Minister, with our team.
We will deal with these very important issues around religious freedoms in an orderly way and in a way that is respectful to all the participants. What I would ask, and what I have written to the Leader of the Opposition and asked him to do, is, in the area of most acute anxiety because of the misrepresenting of the proposals in the Ruddock review that created unnecessary anxiety with students because of their sexuality or their gender identity—we would like to see that issue resolved and these matters come before this parliament. I think we should operate in the area of obvious consensus, get it done and not allow other issues to distract us from that task.