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The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, says state-based assisted dying laws show why Australia needs a federal religious discrimination bill.

As mentioned earlier, the Morrison government’s draft laws are due to be put to the Coalition party room this morning so MPs can provide feedback and decide whether or not to lend their support.

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Archbishop Comensoli said that, while the bill has been reworked over the past few months, “something is better than nothing”.

“It’s good that there is a bill being put forward,” he told the ABC’s RN Breakfast.

“Certainly, there are elements which are no longer going to be in the bill which we would perhaps like to have in there. But nonetheless [it’s] something that goes forward that provides basic protection for people of faith alongside the various other protections that are still important.

“I think the various voluntary euthanasia laws that have come in various states show there is a need for providing these sort of protections, both for individuals and for institutions.”

Archbishop Comensoli said he believed the federal bill would sit “alongside” existing state-based protections and wouldn’t override current state and federal laws. However, he did stress that he hadn’t seen the exact wording of the bill.

The Archbishop’s views are in contrast to groups like the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Equality Australia, who worry the changes could curb access to health services for women who are, for example, seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The religious freedom bill was recently scaled-back, with the so-called Israel Folau clause scrapped last month. The clause would have prevented employers acting against employees – as Rugby Australia did when it terminated Mr Folau’s contract in 2019 – after the rugby league player stated online that God’s plan for gay people was for them to “[go to] Hell … unless they repent of their sins”.



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