Morrison draws on Bible story to explain refusal to compromise on religious discrimination package
Scott Morrison said he was “devastated” that he did not pass the religious discrimination legislation, but said he would rather give up the attempt than see protections undermined.
He confirmed that the legislation is dead for this term – the government will not attempt to review it within budget week.
The Prime Minister dropped the package, which also involved a change to the Sex Discrimination Act, after five Liberal defectors teamed up with Labor and Crusader MPs to amend it in the House of Representatives to protect people transgender students in religious schools.
The five – Trent Zimmerman, Dave Sharma, Fiona Martin, Katie Allen and Bridget Archer – acted despite strong pressure from Morrison and were attacked by some colleagues.
Morrison visited St Maroun’s Maronite Church in Adelaide on Sunday to say he was “devastated” by the outcome and explain his unwillingness to compromise.
He said much of his passion for protecting religious Australians from discrimination was based on his deep appreciation of the Maronite community and many Eastern Orthodox denominations.
Many in these communities have experienced persecution at home and have come to Australia to seek religious freedom.
“That freedom is here. But we have sought to add to these protections and we have not succeeded. And it’s a bitter disappointment,” he said.
But he did not regret introducing the bill.
He said it was disappointing that this attempt to provide more protections “has been undermined by those who would seek to undermine the very religious institutions on which so much of the Christian community depends”, including schools and charities. .
Morrison said he had to make a very important decision about the legislation and in doing so “I felt very much like the woman before Solomon”.
According to the Bible story, two women had babies, one of which was suffocated when the mother rolled over herself during the night. The mother of the dead child put him next to the other woman and took the child alive.
When the women came before Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of the living child, he offered to cut the baby in half.
“And the woman whose child was told, no, the other woman can have my child. And at that point, Solomon knew who the mother was,” Morrison said.
“So I would rather abandon our attempt to secure those additional protections, than see them compromised or undermined.
“And I’m sure faith communities across the country, you all understand that.
“I share your disappointment, but I haven’t forgotten what everything else is based on, and it’s not something I would want to give up.
“So there will be those who will say that I was humiliated and all these things. But [I am] happy to suffer these things for a cause that I firmly believe in and that I know you share. We’ll see where this leads in the future.