‘We don’t preference Catholics’: Vinnies furious at mention

VINNIES is furious the federal government has cast it as a winner under new religious discrimination legislation that would allow charities to hire people of their own faith - arguing it would never give preference to Catholics.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said a revamp of the proposed legislation meant "organisations like St Vincent de Paul can make decisions in areas such as staff based on the faith of that organisation".

"So something that is a religious organisation, a church or a religious educational institution or St Vincent de Paul, they can make a decision based on faith, which might mean preferring someone of their own faith in an employment position," Mr Porter said.

No other charity was mentioned during a 30-minute media briefing.

Vinnies national president Claire Victory was gobsmacked.

"The way our name has been referenced is not reflective of our position," she said.

Vinnies’ Claire Victory. Source: Supplied
Vinnies’ Claire Victory. Source: Supplied

"We didn't make a submission. We are not happy that anyone who is in need of assistance or is seeking to work or volunteer with us might think we would discriminate."

After receiving more than 6000 submissions to the first draft of the legislation published in August, the government yesterday announced it had reworked 11 parts of the bill.

In another major revision, the range of medical professionals that can object to performing a procedure because of their beliefs has been narrowed.

A doctor would still be able to decline to perform an abortion, but could not refuse treatment because of the religion or other characteristics of a patient.

Mr Porter said multiple changes resulted from "coalescence" between, for example, the views of religious groups and LGBTI groups.

"This has been a truly balanced and iterative process," Mr Porter said.

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies said: "I am encouraged by a number of changes in the second exposure draft."

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies. Picture: Britta Campion
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies. Picture: Britta Campion

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said: "The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference welcomes the Government's second exposure draft."

An Australian National Imams Council spokesman said "at a broad level, we support the legislation" although it was disappointed there was no response to the request for "some protection against vilification post (the) Christchurch" massacre.

However, LGBTI lobby group Equality Australia's CEO Anna Brown said the bill "divides our communities, provides different standards for different people, and allow people with extreme views to define their own rules".

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor had not seen the new draft prior to its release but would now consult widely on it.

"We need to ensure any laws aimed at protecting Australians from discrimination based on religious belief do not create legal uncertainty or compromise existing anti-discrimination protections," Mr Dreyfus said.

The government will take submissions on the revised draft until January 31.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "very much looking forward to this next round of consultation so that when we do get to a position where we are able to bring a bill into the parliament and then seek to pursue that through both chambers that we will do so in a way which I would hope would be in a very unifying expression of our country's firm belief in religious freedom and that, of course, applies to those of no faith or positions or positions of faith".


Attorney-General Christian Porter announcing the proposed laws. Picture: Paul Braven
Attorney-General Christian Porter announcing the proposed laws. Picture: Paul Braven