Tania Mihailuk, Member for Bankstown recently formed NSW Parliamentary Friends of Religious Freedom, a group aimed at advancing and protecting the freedom to hold, observe and express religious beliefs.
The group will provide an avenue for NSW MPs from across the political divide to draw attention to the noticeable absence of NSW from the current debate surrounding religious protection and to promote and encourage activities in support of the fundamental human right to religious belief and expression.
NSW is the largest multifaith state with 65.5 per cent of people in the last census identifying themselves as having a religion, compared with 60.5 per cent nationally.
“Australia is also blessed to have a large Greek Orthodox community, who recently celebrated the enthronement of their new Archbishop, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios, with thousands attending the official ceremony in June,” Ms Mihailuk said.
“The federal Government has commissioned the Ruddock review into Religious Freedom, as well as asking the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct an inquiry into the ‘Framework of religious exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation.’ This review suggested changes to NSW law.
However, in NSW neither the Liberal nor Labor party has offered any assurances to the millions of faithful that their rights will be safeguarded by the law, despite both major parties professing to promote and support multicultural and religious diversity.
“We should be seeing leadership from the major parties on this issue in NSW. As the largest multifaith state, we cannot afford to wait for a Court to decide the extent of our rights or hope that the Feds will introduce adequate reforms.
“So along with colleagues from across the political divide, I will be launching Parliamentary Friends of Religious Freedom. Together we will seek a unified approach to religious freedom and facilitate initiatives and events to promote and support religious freedom in NSW.”
Ms Mihailuk added that multicultural communities, such as the Greek Orthodox community, expect government to protect their basis rights including the right to hold, observe and express religious beliefs. She called for NSW to take the driver’s seat on this issue and introduce reforms to safeguard these freedoms.