Letters: Parliament’s Inquiry process must be respected.

NSWCCL strongly objects to the LNP's outrageous attempt to rush the religious discrimination bills through the lower house today. 

The bills have been referred to an Inquiry, which will report before the next sitting of parliament.

To rush the bills through Parliament today, would subvert the very purpose of the Inquiry: to scrutinise bills and seek stakeholder feedback before the bills makes its way through Parliament.

The review of bills by committees, particularly the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, is a cornerstone of our Westminster system and ensuring that human rights and civil liberties are protected in all legislative instruments.

We wrote today to urge the leader of the opposition, Anthony Albanese, to refrain from allowing the bills to pass through the House of Representatives until the Inquiry has delivered its report.

State anti-discriminate laws overridden

NSWCCL is particularly concerned because the third version of the bill would allow for state anti-discriminate laws to be overridden, weakening existing protections.

We wrote to the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman urging him to take a strong stance against the bills, at least insofar as they will allow for the overriding of stronger protections for individuals under NSW laws.

Will the inquiry allow for the proper and serious scrutiny that these bills deserve?

In addition to the issues above, NSWCCL has concerns around the ability of the Inquiry, as currently planned, to assess these bills appropriately.

  • Timing Stakeholders have been given only 22 days to draft and file submissions to the Inquiry and would have to prepare their evidence over a period that is commonly taken as a summer break.
  • In-person hearings Given the fast moving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, particular with the detection of Omicron variant, the decision to hold in-person hearings only is unfortunate.
  • Terms of reference The committee will only ‘accept submissions strictly addressing its terms of reference: that is, relating to the religious discrimination legislative package’. The bills are inextricably linked, however, with a review into the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and state laws which could be superseded by the bills, if they were to pass.

We wrote to the Federal Attorney General Michaelia Cash urging her to reconsider these limitations and refrain from putting the bills to a vote in the House of Representatives until the Inquiry has delivered its report.

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