The federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill will not be introduced to parliament this year as initially planned, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
The controversial laws, which would allow people of religious faith to legally discriminate against LGBTQI people and other minorities, will now be introduced to parliament in 2020.
In a statement, the Prime Minister said the government would issue a second draft of the bill after giving further consideration to the thousands of submissions on the first draft from individuals, faith-based groups and other organisations.
“This second and final exposure draft will be released before the end of the year, and will take account of issues raised and provide the opportunity to respond to the revisions made and fine-tune the bill before it is introduced next year,” said Morrisson.
“We made a commitment to Australians to address this issue at the last election and we are keeping faith with that commitment in a calm and considered process. We’re about listening and getting this right.”
The announcement follows threats from church groups to withdraw support for the bill unless even greater freedoms were granted to Australians of religious faith.
In a letter sent to Morrison this week, a draft of which was seen by Fairfax Media, a coalition of religious groups said: “We take the view that it would be better to have no Religious Discrimination Act rather than a flawed one.”
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has welcomed the decision to re-draft the bill.
“We’re not asking for any special bells and whistles, we’re not asking for big extras,” said ACL managing director Martin Iles.
“We’re simply asking that the offerings that have already been made in the bill get fine-tuned and tweaked and made a little bit better.”
Meanwhile, the just.equal LGBTQI rights group called for the bill to be scrapped altogether.
“This is a bill no-one needs, no one wants and no-one supports,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome told the Star Observer.
“It’s time for the government to throw it in the bin and move on.”