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Fed cabinet to consider religious freedoms

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Labor says it will support “modest” changes to anti-discrimination laws to protect people of faith, but not broad-ranging reforms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is chairing a cabinet meeting in Canberra  at which it is expected Attorney-General Christian Porter will propose a bill which mirrors other existing laws which protect Australians from race, sex, disability and age discrimination.

A person would be able to make a legal argument of direct or indirect discrimination based on their religious views or not holding a religious view.

There will also be law changes which tidy up a range of issues such as clarifying whether or not an organisation could be excluded from being a charity if they back the traditional male-female definition of marriage.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is still considering the separate issue of how religious schools deal with gay students and teachers.

Some government members are arguing for broader reforms, particularly in the wake of same-sex marriage being made law and the Israel Folau case.

Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones said the right to practice faith should be protected.

“But we don’t want to be going down a path where we are fixing a problem that doesn’t exist … and creates unintended consequences,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“If the government has got some proposals which modestly protect faith communities and people of faith from the sorts of discrimination we would all find abhorrent, that would have our support.”

He cautioned against the idea of exempting religious groups from defamation law, which has been floated by some government members.

Liberal senator James Paterson, who has taken part in consultations with Porter, said he believed the draft bill would be made available soon.

“Religious freedom is the freedom to have faith, to not have faith, or to change your faith,” he said. “And it’s critically important that in that process we have complete freedom of speech so that we can consider all the competing ideas about faith.”

With AAP

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