THE 2019 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL DEBATE

Managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby & Ambassador, National Secular Lobby of Australia
Martyn Iles & Fiona Patten
Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Arrive from 11.20am, lunch 12 noon, speakers 12.30 concludes 1.30pm
Canberra - 16 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600

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The draft bill, released by Attorney-General Christian Porter, makes it unlawful to discriminate against Australians on the basis of their religion.

The bill protects against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or activity in the multiple key areas of public life, including: employment, education, access to premises, goods, services and facilities, sport and clubs. 

The government has promoted the bill as an “orthodox” piece of legislation that simply completes Australia’s anti-discrimination “architecture”. That is, it will go alongside existing anti-discrimination acts for race, sex, disability and age. The bill does not create a “positive right” to freedom of religion, which some Christian leaders have been calling for.

The new laws have their origins in the 2017 same-sex marriage debate. Back then, some politicians, religious leaders raised concerns that allowing same-sex marriage would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion. E.g. whether schools could still teach the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and woman or  facility and suppliers can refuse to offer their services on the basis of faith.

Many stakeholders are interested in the passage of the legislation – Churches, charities, Clubs,  Universities and faith based schools, business and employers, employees & unions and not least the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and the National Secular lobby (NSL)  who have opposing views.

This debate between Martin Iles for the ACL & Fiona Patten for NSL will be moderated by Sabra Lane, President of the National Press Club.

Could there be a more important National Press Club debate this year?


Martyn Iles
Martin Iles was appointed Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby in February 2018. ACL is one of Australia’s largest lobby groups, desiring a compassionate, just and moral society through having the public contributions of the Christian faith reflected in the political life of the nation. ACL works with all denominations across protestant, catholic and orthodox traditions with offices in each state.

He was formerly the founding Director of the Human Rights Law Alliance, an organisation that protects religious freedom through legal advocacy. The Alliance is the first organisation of its kind in Australia.

The Alliance has recently been involved in dozens of cases where individuals or organisations were legally challenged for living out their religious convictions. These cases have spanned both State and Federal jurisdictions, and various courts and tribunals, including superior and appeal courts. In addition, the Alliance facilitates legal training of lawyers and law students, frequently provides policy advice to governments, and raises awareness around the relevant legal issues.

Before taking up his role with the Alliance, Martyn worked as Chief of Staff for the Australian Christian Lobby, overseeing all of the organisation’s staff, business development and lobbying activities.

Martyn worked in a top-tier commercial law firm before moving to ACL, and previously has established a successful business supplying networking and data solutions, edited a magazine, and operated a church youth ministry with disadvantaged teenagers for six years.

Martyn studied his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland, graduating with honours, and studies a Master of Laws at the Australian National University.

 

Fiona Patten
Fiona Patten is a Member for Northern Metropolitan Region in the Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Council.

Leader of the Reason Party, Fiona was first elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.

Since being elected in 2014, Fiona has garnered respect from all sides of the political divide and has worked tirelessly to deliver legislative reforms that many thought impossible.

Her achievements include:

  • Establishing fertility clinic safe access zones from protestors
  • Initiating Australia’s largest public inquiry into drug law reform
  • Establishing online e-petitions to Parliament
  • Legalising Uber and other ridesharing services
  • Securing a trial for Victoria’s first medically supervised injecting centre
  • Initiating the Parliamentary Inquiry that led to Voluntary Assisted Dying laws.

As ABC 774’s Jon Faine says: “She is, without doubt, Australia’s most effective legislator.”

Fiona is now working to improve Victoria even further. This term she has already secured Australia’s first Inquiry into Cannabis, an Inquiry into a Legislated Spent Convictions Scheme and the daily recitation of the Parliamentary Lord’s Prayer is being reviewed by the Government. Her anti-vilification Bill has also been referred to a Parliamentary Committee.

She is also pushing for religious accountability and greater separation of church and state, to decriminalise sex work and reduce social isolation and loneliness.

Fiona’s decision to run for political office came after 20 years of advocating for the rights of small business owners, sexual health organisations, sexual freedoms and censorship reforms.

In 2009, frustrated with the lack of social change on censorship, drug law reform, assisted dying and marriage equality, she founded the Australian Sex Party with her partner Robbie Swan.

In 2017, the Australian Sex Party was dissolved to make way for the Reason Party, a movement of common sense, where adults are treated as adults, and children as children.

Fiona and Robbie own a Wildlife Sanctuary.

When Fiona isn’t in Parliament – you will find her in a swimming pool or at a restaurant.

 

Sabra Lane
Sabra Lane joined the National Press Club board in 2014 and was elected as President in February 2018.

Sabra started her journalism career in Adelaide more than 25 years ago. During that time she’s worked at the Ten and Seven Networks, and had two stints at the ABC. She’s filled a range of roles in both TV and radio – from reporting to executive producing and being the ABC’s chief of staff for its Sydney TV newsroom.

In 2008, Sabra moved to Canberra to cover federal politics and was appointed the chief political correspondent for the ABC’s radio current affairs division in 2011, reporting for AM, PM and The World Today. She has been the political correspondent for the ABC’s flagship program 7.30 and is currently on AM.

Sabra studied journalism at the University of South Australia.
You can follow Sabra on Twitter @SabraLane.