New parliament has an opportunity to shape a truly secular Australia

Meredith Doig / 25 May 2022

In April last year, Anthony Albanese said: “I think separation of church and state is important”.

And we agree.

At the Rationalist Society of Australia, we have seen Australians, over recent years, becoming increasingly concerned and uncomfortable about the entanglement of religion with government and with public policy.

At last weekend’s federal election, Australians overwhelmingly voted for evidence-based policy on issues such as climate change and for integrity in government. But they also rejected the coalition government’s pandering to religious fundamentalist lobbyists who want to privilege their version of religious ‘freedom’ at the expense of the rest of society.

The Religious Discrimination Bill was a prime example of overreach, designed to appease vocal religious lobbyists from the from the hard right. Some moderate Liberal Party politicians have pointed to the Religious Discrimination Bill as symptomatic of the party’s problems.

In coming days, we will have more to say about the potential of a new Religious Discrimination Bill under an Albanese government. While the Morrison government ignored the voices of non-religious and pro-secular groups on this issue, we look forward to meeting with Labor leaders and other members of the new parliament to discuss their plan for the legislation.

We will also announce to our members and supporters our list of secular priorities we’d like to see pursued in the new parliament. These are the issues on which we will focus our lobbying and campaigning efforts.

We will, of course, be pushing for a broad agenda of reform, consistent with the RSA’s rationalist principles, on issues including integrity in government, truth in political advertising, valuing science, and allowing the territories to legislate for voluntary assisted dying.

But there is also much-needed secular reform that cannot wait. 

The election results have sent a clear signal that Australians do not want extremist religious ideologies influencing public policy, or religion disproportionately privileged by government. Australians want separation of church and state.

As Mr Albanese said, the separation of church and state is important. And, as our Patron Michael Kirby has said: “The principle of secularism is one of the greatest developments in human rights in the world. We must safeguard and protect it, for it can come under threat in contemporary Australia.”

The new parliament has an opportunity to shape a truly secular Australia. 

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Photo: Anthony Albanese (Facebook)

All the more reason.