Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party is pressuring the Minns New South Wales government to deliver on its pre-election promise to set up an advisory council of religious clerics to act as a “solutions warehouse” for faith communities.
In the state’s Legislative Council in late June, One Nation MLC Tania Mihailuk accused the Labor government of abandoning faith leaders for not having established the advisory body since coming to power in late March.
The Rationalist Society of Australia has raised concerns with multiculturalism minister Steve Kamper (pictured) that the Faith Advisory Council could privilege the already powerful voices of religious clerics even further in policy making and marginalise the voices of non-religious citizens.
In response, Mr Kamper told us that “a diversity of viewpoints” would be represented on the new Faith Advisory Council.
In November last year, then Opposition Leader Chris Minns and Mr Kamper promised faith leaders that the body would be a “solutions warehouse” and a direct link to the government for religious organisations to advise on issues such as “objections to euthanasia/voluntary assisted dying, and religious discrimination”.
In June, Ms Mihailuk MLC told parliament that the government should now deliver on that promise.
“Nothing has come from the Minister about the faith advisory council and faith leaders are disappointed. I have spoken to a number of faith leaders who are concerned that they were sold a lie on 7 November by the Labor Party,” she said.
“Government members should speak to faith leaders and faith representatives across this State to ensure that they will set up a proper process that will allow them to make an application to apply for this faith advisory council. To date, the Labor Government has failed faith communities across the State.”
In May, Greens upper house member Abigail Boyd said she was wary about the proposal to give a committee of religious figures with a direct line to government ministers.
“While religion can play an important cultural role for many communities, ensuring we make space to accommodate different cultures and religions and prioritise cultural and religious sensitivity is not the same thing as providing the leaders of organised religion with direct political influence,” she said.
Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.
Image: Steve Kamper (Facebook)