New South Wales Labor leader Chris Minns has told faith leaders that he “trusts” their organisations while outlining the advantages of his party’s proposed faith advisory council in a speech last week.
At a town hall-style event in Parramatta last Monday, Mr Minns said Labor’s proposed Faith Affairs Council would be better than the Perrottet government’s Religious Communities Advisory Council.
In the speech – a recording of which the Rationalist Society of Australia has obtained – Mr Minns promised faith leaders and members of faith communities attending the event that, under Labor’s proposal, religious organisations would have more control over who would be appointed to represent them.
“Our [Faith Affairs Counci] is different and, I believe, better than the government’s religious council. We will ask religious organisations to nominate representatives, rather than having individuals nominating and then the government choosing the composition of that council,” said Mr Minns.
“We trust your organisations. Many of them have existed longer than the country itself. And we know that it’s the best way of ensuring representation from the leadership of faith communities in the state.”
Ahead of this month’s state election, the RSA has warned both the government and opposition that their respective faith advisory bodies would privilege the voices of religious clerics even further in policy making and marginalise the voices of non-religious citizens
In November, Mr Minns promised religious organisations that Labor’s Faith Affairs Council would give them “a strong advocate within a Minns Labor Government and our decision making process”. Labor’s multiculturalism spokesperson Steve Kamper also said the new body would provide a “solutions warehouse” and a direct link to government for religious organisations to advise on issues such as “objections to euthanasia/voluntary assisted dying, and religious discrimination”.
In his speech last week, Mr Minns told the audience that, under a Labor government, Mr Kamper would “act as a single point of contact for the faith communities within the government” and represent the views of religious organisations “at the highest levels of decision making in the state”.
Mr Minns touted the state as being “proudly multicultural and proudly multifaith” and argued that his party had a shared belief with faith groups in “egalitarianism in creating a society in which everyone has equal access to opportunity”.
In a letter to Mr Minns and Mr Kamper in early February, RSA president Dr Meredith Doig said the creation of an advisory body privileging religious voices and excluding non-religious voices was at odds with Australia’s international commitment to treating people equally, regardless of religious or non-religious beliefs.
She called on both Labor and the Perrottet government to change their respective policies to include representatives from the non-religious population, such as atheists and humanists.
Last week, Mr Minns also promised to trump the Perrottet government’s $10 million gift to religious groups to improve security measures at their premises, committing Labor to offer $15 million.
Image: Chris Minns (Facebook)