Informer: Is this new bill a 'sword or a shield'?

Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer has raised concerns about the government's anti-religious discrimination bill. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer has raised concerns about the government's anti-religious discrimination bill. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Over the past few years freedom of speech, and what that freedom actually means, has been thrust into the spotlight.

From anti-lockdown protests and Isreal Folau's social media comments to the Black Lives Matter movement and the high court's ruling that media outlets can be sued over defamatory comments made by their audience on Facebook.

You only need to have spent 30 seconds on social media in the past week to know that these are the kind of issues that divide Australians.

And now it's 'religious freedoms' causing all the hubbub, thanks to the Federal Government's proposed faith discrimination Bill.

The Bill, which is expected to be presented to Parliament tomorrow by Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself, has not only divided everyday Aussies but it's causing some division among politicians as well.

Tasmanian Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer said she would not rule out voting against the proposed Bill.

She is concerned it would override her state's strong anti-discrimination regime.

"I don't really see a need for this and I'm concerned about what the potential consequences, including unintended consequences of the legislation, might be," she said.

In fact, the Tasmanian Government has also expressed its concern to the federal government about the Bill.

Other moderate Libs also worry that the proposed Bill would give primacy to religious views over others.

However, Morrison said the Bill was about tolerance. He described it as a shield and not a sword.

"It is a religious discrimination bill, not a religious freedom bill," he told coalition members.

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce revealed last week that the draft Bill was expedited as a trade-off for the National party to come to the table on the government's Net-Zero by 2050 plan.

AAP reports that he wants to "make sure a person who has a faith doesn't have to hide it under a blanket".

*cue raised eyebrows*

The proposed legislation is also drawing criticism from groups on both sides of the argument.

The AAP reported that the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs think tank believes the bill is "too vague" to effectively shield people of faith.

While Equality Australia is worried that it could take away anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown was concerned that under the proposal, a nurse could be protected for telling someone with HIV that their illness was a punishment from God, for example.

We should all be concerned if the proposed religious discrimination Bill would give anyone the feeling that they could confidently, and legally, say that to someone.

Many of us were bought up with the old saying, "if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".

So when it comes to this proposed Bill, I for one, have got nothing to say.

Did you know you can receive this daily digest by email? Sign up here