Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby has called out the government’s failure to release Philip Ruddock’s religious freedom review.
Kirby also responded to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments about young LGBTI people in an interview on the ABC’s Radio National, The Guardian reported.
“If it’s being taught in public schools it’s simply telling children what they probably know already anyway, that there are LGBTIQ people in their midst,” Kirby said.
“If private and religious schools are not telling them that, then they’re letting them down in terms of their duty to look after all children in their care – especially if they’re receiving public money.”
Kirby said that sexual and gender diversity was just “part of our nature.”
He said it was “unusual in our information hungry society” that the report had not yet been released after five months, and that the lack of transparency suggests its recommendations weren’t enough to convince the government to take action.
Kirby suggested that secular members of society are wary “that something has been cooked-up” and that any pending changes will be “designed to give a lot more power and maybe some more money to the religious organisations in society.”
“It hasn’t been released up to now – now that’s a long time in Australian politics, we’ve lost another prime minister in that time – and therefore the mind gets a bit suspicious, I’m afraid.”
The retired judge said the school chaplain program that “invades public schools” and the recent increase in government funding for Catholic and independent schools meant people’s concerns were justified.
“When religion enters the marketplace, when it’s involved in providing education, healthcare, aged care, then they’ve just got to comply with the principles of openness – secular principles – to respect people of religion and of no religion,” he said.
Independent candidate for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps has also called on the government to release the findings of the review before the October 20 by-election.
LGBTI rights campaigner Rodney Croome has warned that religious freedom changes could end up being a regression equivalent to the Howard-era ban on same-sex marriage.
“For politicians like Morrison, who campaigned against marriage equality and continues to advocate for “religious freedom” (and against “gender whisperers”), it’s a way to keep the postal survey No case alive,” Croome wrote for the Star Observer.
“The question for LGBTI Australians and human rights defenders, is how can we stop history from repeating itself?”