Transcript – 4BC – The Scott Emerson Drive Show

Nov 24, 2021 | Federal News

24 November 2021


SCOTT EMERSON: Tomorrow the Prime Minister will introduce the Religious
Discrimination Bill into parliament. This is something he’s first promised the legislation at
the last election. The bill was presented and supported unanimously at a Coalition party room
meeting yesterday. Now, some concerns have been raised by moderate Liberal MPs. Among
the concerns raised were whether gay teachers would get sacked and gay students be expelled
or suspended from religious schools under the legislation. Once a bill is introduced, it will be
reviewed by a Senate committee and is expected to report back to Parliament by February
next year. Michaelia Cash is the Federal Attorney-General. And she joins me on the line now.
Senator, thanks for being on the show.

MINISTER CASH: It’s great to be with you.

SCOTT EMERSON: Now, what is the main aim of this bill?

MINISTER CASH: Well, basically, we’re delivering as a government on our commitment to
protect people from discrimination on the basis of religion. As you already know, we have
existing federal anti-discrimination legislation, we’ve got the Age Discrimination Act, the
Disability Discrimination Act, the Racial Discrimination Act, and the Sex Discrimination
Act. But there is no federal religious discrimination act. We are a culturally and religiously
diverse nation. In fact, over 14 million Australians actually hold a religious belief, you know,
and despite this, many of them experienced discrimination on the basis of their religious
beliefs each and every day in their public life. This is just wrong. And on that basis, that we’re
going to provide them with protection from discrimination on the basis of their religion.

SCOTT EMERSON: I mentioned to you Attorney-General, that some moderate Liberals
have raised concerns. Now it did go through the Coalition party room yesterday. Is there a
concern also that some people may claim that the comments they’re making are reasonable,
even though they may offend someone, but use the excuse that well, that’s their religious
belief, and so they’re entitled to make those kinds of claims?

MINISTER CASH: Okay, so what the bill actually does, is it ensures that people can’t be
prosecuted for moderately expressing a reasonable opinion. You and I could have a lovely
conversation, it could be a robust conversation, just say, I was an atheist, and you are a
religious person, as long as we are both expressing our statements of belief in good faith.
That is okay. You know, a key aspect of protecting religious belief and activity is protecting
the ability of individuals to explain, to discuss, and to share their beliefs. But what the bill
also does is this, it draws a very clear line against harassment, against vilification, against
intimidation and against threatening behaviour. So, if you make a statement, and it’s
malicious, it’s not made in good faith, that is not a statement of genuine belief.

SCOTT EMERSON: Now, I mentioned this was an election promise at the 2019 election,
we’re getting very close to the end of this term now. Why has it taken so long to finally have
this bill introduced into parliament?

MINISTER CASH: Well, obviously, we had the global pandemic, and that meant the
government literally had to focus on more pressing issues at that time, and that was very
much in terms of, you know, saving lives, and saving livelihoods. COVID-19, a global
pandemic, and we responded to that. We did continue on the Religious Discrimination Bill.
And when I became Attorney-General, the Prime Minister asked me to deliver on that
commitment. I have consulted widely, and I believe the bill that we have now released, it’s a
fair bill, and it is a balanced bill. And I think it strikes the right balance between ensuring that
people have religion, they have their rights respected, so that right balance between religious
discrimination and in protecting human rights. The Prime Minister himself will formally
introduce the Religious Discrimination Bill into the parliament tomorrow.

SCOTT EMERSON: Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, thanks for being on 4BC Drive this

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you as always



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