Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a sit down interview with Sky News’ Kieran Gilbert reaffirmed his government’s commitment to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act.
The context of the question was in regard to the Israel Folau saga which has dominated the news cycle this past week. When Folau had his legal GoFundMe page removed for breaching the site’s terms of service on Monday Morrison said the topic had already been given enough oxygen.
Morrison had previously said about Folau’s sinners Instagram post which led to Rugby Australia’s termination of his playing contract that it was “grossly insensitive”.
Morrison in Friday’s interview again dodged commenting directly on the Folau case but reaffirmed his government’s commitment to implementing a Religious Discrimination Act.
Many religious Australians have called on Morrison, himself a man of deep Christian faith, to show leadership on the Folau matter and accused him of missing in action.
Folau was able to restart his legal fundraiser thanks to the Australian Christian Lobby on Tuesday morning who hit the pause button on donations on Thursday when they reached $2 million.
Folau had a conciliation meeting with Rugby Australia Friday afternoon where both parties failed to come to an agreement. This means the unfair dismissal case will go before the federal court.
Morrison clearly wanting to avoid the culture war that has been unleashed during the week over the Folau fundraiser said his proposed Religious Discrimination Act would be noncontroversial. He would also work towards it having bipartisan support.
The Act was a response by the Coalition Government to the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom that was conducted after the legislation of same sex marriage.
To this point there has been no specific detail about what would be contained in the Act. Would it protect people expressing their religious beliefs without the fear of being sacked or denied service like Israel Folau?
There is also concern about would such an Act in effect create a blasphemy law and become another restriction on free speech? Could it protect extreme and barbaric religious practices like arranged marriages and female genital mutilation?
All these questions are still yet to be answered. Morrison has now come out and said the plans for a Religious Discrimination Act had not be shelved, but his attitude is extremely pie in the sky and completely out of step with the ferocious nature of the debate this past week.