On 4 November 2022, the Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus MP, asked the ALRC to recommend reforms to the law to implement the Government's policy commitment to a religious discrimination bill that is consistent with Australia's international legal obligations.
On 27 January 2023, the ALRC released its Consultation Paper for the Inquiry with Submissions to the review closing on 24 February 2023. The ALRC's final report was due to the Attorney-General on 21 April 2023.
The Attorney General has now announced that he is extending the reporting deadline for the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) review into current exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act that currently apply to religious schools. The final report back date has been extended to December 31.
Some months before the May election in 2022, I wrote in The Spectator 'Will the Religious Discrimination Bill see the light of day?' in which I summed up as follows: "So, will the Religious Discrimination Bill see the 'Light of Day'? – not on your nelly" so is there a sense of déjà vu to the Attorney-General's announcement?
The extension is somewhat understandable given that the ALRC in late February asked for further time to consider more than 420 submissions received in response to its Consultation Paper on reform proposals, and more than 40,000 survey responses.
The issue is that this strategically well-timed announcement raises a lot of questions about the purpose and politics of the announcement. Christian Voice Australia (CVA) repeatedly sought feedback from the ALRC only to be advised that all was on track. It was unrealistic from day one to expect the 21 April deadline to be met so the Albanese government was always intending to extend the review report back date given the lack of feedback from the ALRC and the attorney general's office and indeed from the Hon Mark Dreyfus MP.
As a devotee of political strategy, could it be that the Religious Discrimination Bill under Albanese will suffer the same fate as it did under Morrison? Could Labor opt for an early election late next year if 'The Voice' fails as it surely will?
Perhaps Machiavelli's theory is proving to be true when he theorised that a feared leader rules by fear of punishment – in this case the punishment of not having a religious discrimination bill at all!
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the mistake of leaving the implementation of the religious discrimination bill to the 11th hour – just months before the election – and he paid the price for biting the hands that fed him the May 2019 election win on a silver platter.
Now, Prime Minister Albanese is headed for the same fate. The PM cannot ignore the fact that Australia needs a religious discrimination bill given that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. Christianity is the most persecuted religion on the planet, writes Greg Sheridan, The Australian's foreign editor.
The preoccupation with 'The Voice' for just 3.2% of the population is a slap in the face for 96.8% of Australians of which 43.9% are Christians (2021 Census) who also want their 'voice' heard.
It's politically shameful the Prime Minister has dropped the ball on the promised religious discrimination review promised for 21 April.
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