Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
Thank you, Senator Abetz—that, in the context of the Prime Minister deciding to kick this issue down the road, we may have been able to resolve some of the issues with a bit more clarity. I think it's obvious from the earlier debate that there isn't now the numerical support for that. But I hope, very dearly, that the Ruddock review process will ensure that we don't deteriorate in Australia down to a place where an organisation like St Vincent de Paul is regarded as not being a body established for religious purposes. If there's one message I have for that review panel coming out of this discussion, I think, that would be the main one.
In relation to Archbishop Porteous, I noted Senator Paterson took less comfort than others in relation to that matter. My only reflection on that issue would be, unfortunately, that the attempt by Senator Paterson, Senator Fawcett and others to provide provisions in these amendments would equally be legally contestable. So whilst the Porteous case hasn't established any principles because it was withdrawn, I'm not so confident that even necessarily these provisions won't continue legal uncertainty, or indeed be challenged in a way which further complicates our already complex antidiscrimination framework.
I know that in the past there have been attempts to simplify our antidiscrimination framework to deal with its tandem nature and the differences between the state and the federal jurisdictions. It is a very complex and challenging area, but I hope, as a consequence of this debate and the Ruddock review, that the next time we look at a consolidation of an antidiscrimination framework, it's on the basis that we have strong general bipartisan support for religious freedom.