IN a historic meeting in Sydney this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with 21 leaders of major faith communities in Australia to discuss progress in the government’s plans to introduce a religious discrimination bill later this year.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim, who represented the Jewish community, said the meeting was “constructive” with a diverse range of faith community leaders represented.
“Each of us outlined what was of importance to our respective communities not only with regard to the proposed legislation but also in terms of Australia’s broader cultural attitudes with regard to religion,” Wertheim said.
“There was a large measure of agreement in the room about many of the principles that the government is grappling with in seeking a fair and workable balance between religious freedom and competing rights and freedoms. This sends a positive message to the world about how effectively Australia operates as a multi-faith and multicultural society.”
Wertheim emphasised that the government is still working on the draft legislation, and that there will likely be further consultations as the process unfolds. “We all welcomed the Prime Minister’s assurance that the government is ‘not rushing this’ and will continue to proceed in a measured and considered way,” Wertheim noted.
He said Morrison praised the role that religious belief has played in community building.
“From the tenor of his comments and responses to our concerns, I felt reassured that the rights and freedoms of people of faith to practise and preach their beliefs, and the rights and freedoms of faith-based schools and institutions to operate in accordance with their ethos, will continue to be protected in accordance with international norms,” Wertheim added.