From Freedom for Faith

Executive Summary

Freedom for Faith asked both the major parties seven key questions on religious freedom. It also sought the views of minor parties, but they chose not to respond.

  1. Are there any recommendations of the Ruddock report that your Party will not bring forward to Parliament, or otherwise support in Parliament after this election?

The Coalition has accepted 10 of the 20 Recommendations of the Ruddock Review, accepted a further 5 in principle and referred another 5 for further consultation and legal advice.

Labor has not committed to implement any of the recommendations of the Ruddock Panel. It has not specifically rejected any of those recommendations, other than in relation to school students.

  1. Does your Party support the appointment of a Religious Freedom Commissioner?

The Coalition supports the appointment but has yet to do anything to implement it.

Labor will not oppose a Religious Freedom Commissioner, but nor will it appoint one.

  1. Does your Party affirm the right of faith-based educational institutions to teach students and to set codes of conduct for the students during school activities in accordance with the institution’s values and beliefs?

Labor indicated that students should be protected from discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality and other attributes. On the other hand, it has no plans to change the law that allows educational institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices in accordance with religious doctrines or beliefs.

The Coalition’s policy is to remove provisions that allow for discrimination against students. It supports the right of religious educational institutions to teach and maintain rules consistent with their faith.

  1. Does your Party support the right of religious organisations, including faith-based schools, to employ staff who adhere to the beliefs of the religious organisation and/or commit to abide by a code of conduct required by the organisation as a condition of their employment?

The Coalition largely avoided the question and has referred the issues off to the Australian Law Reform Commission. It did not specifically endorse the right of faith-based organisations to select staff, or prefer to choose staff, who share the religious faith that motivates the organisation.

Labor did not respond to the first part of this question. Labor does support the right of schools to insist that their staff do not deliberately and wilfully behave contrary to the values of the school. Labor also believes teachers and other staff of religious schools should be protected from discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality and other attributes covered by the Sex Discrimination Act.

  1. Does your Party support the enactment of a federal Religious Freedom Act (or similar) that will give effect to Australia’s obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and override state and territory laws to the extent of any inconsistency with those obligations?

Neither party answered this question properly and instead referenced a commitment to protect against discrimination. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires governments to provide positive protections for freedom of belief and conscience, subject to limitations. This is much broader than simply providing protection from discrimination.

  1. Does your Party propose or support any changes to the charitable or taxation status of religious organisations or ministers of religion? If so, what changes does the Party propose?

Both major parties support the retention of the current laws on charitable and taxation status.

  1. Does your Party support the enactment of provisions protecting freedom of conscience for all health professionals in relation to such matters as abortion, euthanasia and infertility treatment?

The Coalition did not respond specifically to this question, saying it was a matter for the states and territories.

Labor indicated that it supports freedom of conscience in relation to abortion and euthanasia, provided that the health professional refers the patient to someone who will provide that service. It made no commitments in relation to infertility treatment.

To see the Liberal Party’s full response to Freedom for Faith’s questions click here

To see the Labor Party’s full response to Freedom for Faith’s questions click here