Attorney-General Christian Porter will sit down with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to discuss a way forward on a religious discrimination act, after failing to respond to requests for a meeting for more than a month. Source: The Australian.
The Catholic Weekly reports that Archbishop Fisher sent a letter to the Attorney-General on June 5 to discuss the upcoming religious discrimination bill and wider religious issues. The Australian has confirmed that the Archbishop never received a reply to his letter.
The breakdown in communication came weeks after religious officials complained that they have not been consulted yet on any final religious discrimination bill.
Mr Porter’s spokesman told The Australian yesterday that a meeting with the Archbishop — who is overseas — will be arranged in coming days.
“The Archbishop’s letter was received on the 13th June and a response will be provided shortly,” Mr Porter’s spokesman said.
“In the response the AG advises the Archbishop that there will be an opportunity for consultation with the government on the Religious Discrimination Bill which will be arranged for a mutually convenient time.”
Government MPs are split over whether to back a narrow anti-discrimination bill or legislate a wider protection of “freedoms”, but have praised Mr Porter’s handling of the consultations.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce yesterday warned the Attorney-General must keep religious leaders close as he creates a new religious framework .
Archbishop Fisher wrote to the Attorney-General last month that he wanted to discuss the issue of religious freedom “at the earliest opportunity”.
“So that we can ensure women and men of faith have the freedom to continue making their essential contributions to our community without fear of discrimination or of being the victims of ‘lawfare,” he said, as reported in The Catholic Weekly.
“With a quarter of Australians identifying as Catholic and more than half as Christians, and as the providers of education, healthcare and welfare to a very large proportion of the Australian population, you can appreciate the Catholic Church’s interest in the course of any conversations about freedom of religion.”
Failure to engage faith community on religious freedom causes concern (The Catholic Weekly)