Statements by Senators – Australian Law Reform Commission, Wednesday March 27, 2024

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (13:20): I rise today to speak about the recommendations by the Australian Law Reform Commission on religious discrimination. These recommendations are an egregious attack on people of faith. That’s what they are. It must be rejected. All of their recommendations must be rejected by everyone here in this chamber. How dare the ALRC suggest that the state dictate to religious people which views on human sexuality are acceptable and which views are not acceptable? Who died and made the ALRC the Pope? How dare the ALRC encourage politicians to interfere in the staffing of religious organisations, dictating who they can and can’t employ?

These recommendations represent a massive overreach by the states. But they are worse than that. They are a full frontal attack on a human rights. If people are not free to follow their own conscience when it comes to sexuality and gender, then they are not free at all. And if people are not free to associate with those with whom they share common values and ethics, then in what sense does freedom of association exist at all? It doesn’t exist. If senators value freedom of religion and freedom of association, they will agree with me that the ALRC report 142 must be condemned and rejected.

The Liberal Party’s own statement of belief declares their support for ‘freedom of thought, worship, speech and association’. Their statement of belief declares these things to be the most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy. The ALRC recommendations don’t just undermine those basic freedoms; they crucify them. If a Christian school cannot insist that its own staff are practising Christians, then in what sense does that school remain Christian? Would the Greens preselect an SUV-driving oil company executive as a candidate? Of course not, don’t be silly. Would the unions appoint a free market libertarian with a background in entrepreneurship as a shop steward? No, they would not. Would the Australian Pride Network choose a heterosexual pentecostal who insists there are only two genders to work as their LGBTQIA+ minus sign, divided by sign, exclamation mark liaison manager? We all know the answer to that: they would not.

So riddle me this: why are religious organisations singled out for special treatment by the ALRC? It’s not a trick question and it does not require us in this place to spend hours talking about it. One-third of Australian families send their kids to religious schools because they value the ethos, ethics and values being taught. The ALRC report would make it illegal for religious schools to uphold their ethics and values. The recommendations, if enacted, would neuter religious schools and deny huge portions of the Australian community their preferred choice of education. It’s wrong. It must be rejected.

We in this chamber all have a set of beliefs—a way in which we see the world. When the government starts insisting that it can frame people’s world view, especially on deeply held beliefs like sexuality, gender and marriage, then everyone is in danger. Today it is the Christian world view that is under attack—okay, fair enough—but it is an incredibly naive person who cheers for the interference of government in Christian schooling just because they do not like Christians. Instead, you should be asking: if the government can involve itself in the belief system of Christian organisations, who will be next? Where, if anywhere, will the line between state imposed belief and personal values be drawn?

If the ALRC recommendations are not condemned then we are greenlighting government to involve itself in anyone’s world view and in anyone’s associations. I do not want to live in a world like that—I just don’t. Join me in condemning and rejecting the Australian Law Reform Commission report and, in doing so, safeguard the rights of all Australians to their beliefs and to freely associate as they choose.