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Human Rights Commissioner wrong on religion bill: A-G

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10.10.2019

The ACT Human Rights Commission's claims about the impact of the proposed Religious Discrimination Act ("Bill poses risk of discrimination masked as belief", October 9, p9) are so far from reality they raise serious questions about the commission's motives.

Like any topical issue before the Parliament, there are a variety of views on the draft Bill.

Attorney-General Christian Porter during question time in the House of Representatives. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

But the commission's assertions that victims of domestic violence could be refused help or taxis could refuse to carry guide dogs are so wrong at law that a credible lawyer would be too embarrassed to say something so legally wrong. Either the lawyers at the ACT Commission cannot read and understand what is relatively straightforward legal drafting in the exposure Bill, or they are engaging in deliberate misrepresentation for the sake of political advocacy.

Other groups submitting on the draft have made their observations and put their views without needing to totally mischaracterise what the Bill's key provisions actually say.

The Bill takes a measured, practical approach to protecting individuals from religious discrimination that addresses real-world issues. For example, very large companies wanting to restrict the expression of religious beliefs by employees in their spare time would need to point to evidence that justifies their position.

The Bill also says Australians should not have to face a discrimination lawsuit simply for saying what they believe, but balances this by putting in place very clear safeguards which ensure there are no protections for speech that is malicious, or that harasses, vilifies or incites violence or hatred.

These are balanced, straightforward safeguards.

Nothing in the Bill would allow taxi-drivers to turn away guide dogs, or prevent women from accessing help for domestic violence, as the Commission has suggested.

The government will consider all of the submissions and the Bill will inevitably be subject to further scrutiny from Senate inquiries as it progresses through the Parliament.

In the latest ACT government's "Our CBR" bulletin, they continue to claim the ACT will have 100 per cent renewable sourced electricity by next year.

For those who believe this fairy story, ask yourself where do you think your electricity will come from on a windless night? It will, as it does now, come from the majority coal sourced national grid.

Further, minister Rattenbury amongst others, claims that if the ACT can do it, so can the rest of Australia. That is not true. Australia has no other jurisdiction to access.

While it is admirable for the ACT to buy renewable sourced electricity equivalent to its actual national grid usage, it is disingenuous to imply to Canberrans that the actual electricity coming into their homes will be 100 per cent renewably sourced.

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© Canberra Times