Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has called for an investigation into the recent termination of Israel Folau’s rugby contract, saying that the “vast bulk” of Australians thought it was “completely unacceptable”.
Israel Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was terminated last month following a code of conduct hearing.
The three-member panel tasked with providing Rugby Australia with a recommendation on how to proceed ruled that Folau’s four-year contract, reportedly worth $4 million, should be severed as a result of his recent anti-LGBTI social media posts.
In April, Folau posted on Twitter that Tasmania’s legal reforms for trans and gender diverse people were a sign that people should “REPENT and turn away from your evil ways”, drawing criticism from Rugby Australia’s major sponsor Qantas.
He later posted an image on Instagram which stated that “hell awaits” gay people, similar to the social media posts that landed him in hot water last year.
Following Folau’s sacking, Abetz wrote to the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to request they investigate the decision to terminate his contract, according to The Examiner.
“The fundamental point of the need to protect freedom of speech and freedom of religion is in the DNA of every true Liberal and that is why I am seeking to pursue it,” he told The Examiner.
“I thought about these issues [regarding Folau] during the election and then after the election was able to devote my time to it a bit more and give some considered thought [to it].
“In this parliament, we’ve got a majority in the lower house and, in the Senate, depending on how things fall, there may be a very real opportunity to bring about some fundamental reform to protect individual freedoms.”
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter is expected to table a religious discrimination bill in parliament this year.
Abetz said the legislation should ensure that fundamental rights that “used to be an absolute given in our community are restored to people”.
“The vast bulk of people in Australia just get that it is completely unacceptable that Israel Folau has been treated in the way that he has,” he said.
“You don’t have to be a man or woman of faith of any kind to understand the huge injustice that has been dealt to Israel Folau.”
In his letter to Ombudsman Sandra Parker, Abetz reportedly stated that the termination of Folau’s contract could be in breach of the Fair Work Act, citing sections 342 and 351, which prohibit employers from engaging in adverse action and discrimination against an employee.