Freedom of Religion
On 22 November 2017, the Australian Government appointed an Expert Panel into Religious Freedom, chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock, to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.
The Expert Panel provided its report, titled 'Religious Freedom Review', to the former Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, on 18 May 2018.
The full report is available to download below:
The Expert Panel concluded that there is an opportunity to further protect, and better promote the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere. The report made 20 recommendations to enhance the protection of the right to freedom of religion in Australia, both through legislative amendments to Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, and through non-legislative measures.
On 13 December 2018, the government released its response to the report. It accepts either directly or in principle, 15 of the 20 recommendations of the Religious Freedom Review. While noting and agreeing with the principle underpinning the remaining five recommendations (1, 5, 6, 7 and 8), the government is of the view that further consideration is necessary to address the complexities associated with these recommendations.
The government has determined that the best path forward in relation to these recommendations is one that involves all Australian jurisdictions. The government will therefore consult with the states and territories on the terms of a potential reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission for inquiry into and report on these recommendations.
The Australian Government response is available to download below:
On 29 August 2019, the Attorney-General released exposure drafts of three draft bills, which together form a legislative package on religious freedom. Further information about the first consultation process, including copies of some submissions, can be found on the Religious Freedom Bills – first exposure drafts page.
On 10 December 2019, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General released second exposure drafts of the three bills. Further information about the second consultation process can be found on the Religious Freedom Bills – second exposure drafts page.