After the failure of amendments to the same-sex marriage legislation, former attorney-general Philip Ruddock is leading a review of religious freedoms under the legislation. But will this review really have an effect?
Indications point to a potentially biased reviewing process. One coalition MP observed:
The inquiry panel was selected without consultation and largely reflects the biases and relationships of the Yes voting cabinet members. I hold little hope after a close look at the voting patterns of both the Senate and the Reps with respect to the amendments (being revisited).
Representatives on the panel include Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, retired judge Annabelle Bennett, and Jesuit priest Frank Brennan, who – despite being a Catholic priest = campaigned for ‘yes’ during the recent postal vote.
And even if the review adequately explores the effect that the legislation has on religious freedom, will the outcome affect future policy? A Coalition for Marriage representative expressed doubts:
Not only has there been a lack of consultation, there is no clear understanding that this process will lead to an actual legislative outcome that provides protections for Australians of faith. The absence of a prominent No voice on the inquiry is of concern, and does not send a positive message to the millions and millions of No voters.
The point is a valid one: the Senate Select Committee inquiry earlier in the year was ignored, as was the recent interim report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade inquiry on religious freedom. How can Australians trust that the Ruddock review won't similarly be ignored as well, particularly since those pushing for same-sex marriage now have what they want – same-sex marriage legislated with no protections for freedom of speech or religion?