The Curious Case of The Disappearing Report

pic: Peter Kaminsky

Where is the Ruddock review, why is it still under wraps, and why are so many Liberals pushing unnecessary “religious freedom” legislation? Is it religious conviction, or naked self-interest?

Buried, Not Yet Dead

Malcolm Turnbull hid the Ruddock report in his bottom drawer because he wanted it forgotten. The government would drag its feet ‘preparing a response’, which would see us through nicely to the next election, all the while reassuring the rabid hordes on his backbench that the government was ‘working on it.’

That’s one of the reasons the so called DelCons (delusional conservatives) and Christaliban in the Liberal Party got rid of him. They lost patience. They’re desperate to force through religious “protection” before they are dumped. They are driven by the fear that if they fail now, the issue will die, and the incoming Labor government won’t hurry to revive it.

But there’s another reason beside “faith” for their stance, and to understand it, we need to step back to 2016, and the Mark Allaby case.

The Allaby File

Allaby resigned from the board of the Australian Christian Lobby after PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), where he was a director, were made aware of this clear conflict of interest with their commitment to LGBTI inclusion. Allaby later left the PwC Board, too. “Christian” activists of course claimed he was “forced out”.

He came under similar pressure again a year later, again over a perceived conflict of interest between his role as a managing partner at IBM (another supporter of LGBTI rights), and his directorship of an ACL subsidiary, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, which mentors high-flying young ‘Christians’ to be a fifth column for Jesus inside business and government.

News Limited made it a cause celebre. It became one of Andrew Bolt’s hobby horses. The Australian piled in. Anti-equality campaigners – especially the Australian Christian Lobby – were also predictably outraged. The Marriage Alliance said:

This is not simply about Mr Allaby – it is a warning shot to employees in any organisation about their religious affiliations.  If IBM will not even comment about whether or not a senior executive has a right to be associated with religious institutions during his own time, what does this say about the freedom for employees of any company to do the same? Is it only a matter of time before same-sex marriage activists start pressuring all companies to impose a ‘religious test’ on their employees under the threat of boycott?

ScoMo Rising

Now, let’s return to the present day and the strident demands, coming from the Prime Minister in particular, for strong religious protections, and the still hidden Ruddock Report.

When Philip Ruddock began his review, he said it was mainly to put Australia’s commitment to freedom of religion beyond doubt. One of his co-panellists, Father Frank Brennan said only “slight tweaking” of current laws around religious freedom was required. So the review was designed from the outset to leave the status quo largely untouched, aside from minor tinkering.

Turnbull handballed the resulting report off to the Attorney General to formulate the government’s response (and told him not to hurry). He buried the Ruddock Review because that was its purpose – to be buried. To kick the can down the road, avoiding a fight over what he probably saw as relatively trivial matters.

But Scott Morrison was one of those agitating loudest for extensions to religious freedom With his accession to the top job, you’d think he would immediately haul Ruddocks report out of the drawer and begin drafting legislation. So why has it still not been released?

Because ScoMo thinks it is far too weak. He wants real red meat. And cases like Mark Allaby are clearly front of mind (and, I am told, the minds of the Christaliban faction generally). In his recent Sky News Interview, the PM said:

“Why should you be denied a directorship or a partnership in a law firm or accountancy firm just because you happen to have expressed on Facebook or somewhere a particular religious belief?”

“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now, I’m not saying it is, necessarily. People say ‘oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’ [But] can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?”

It’s a good question. Why does this issue, affecting as it does an extremely small minority of ultra-religious, seem to loom so large in the (Christaliban) Liberal mind? Why the unseemly rush to get something done before the election? Is it just to ‘protect religion’? Or is it more about self-interest, protecting MPs financial futures?

Jobs For The Boys (and maybe the occasional girl)

Of course, ScoMo needs to throw a bleeding hunk of LGBTI steak to “The Base”, but surely the PM has far more pressing matters to attend to? Surely they can’t all be in the too hard basket, along with climate change, the economy, workhouses masquerading as “aged care”, religious institutions still not cleansed after the child abuse scandal?

But consider this. Lots of ex-Liberal MPs, especially the more extreme Christaliban types, are going to be looking for lucrative jobs on company boards after the election. Companies they believe – in the light of the Allaby case – will be wary of employing them for fear of being targeted by the rainbow lobby.

Are the PM and his Christaliban backers going hard on ‘religious freedom’ because they think the lack of “religious protections” threatens their future job prospects and job security?

I have to tell them, they’re wasting their time, quite apart from the harm they’re doing. They’re pretty well unemployable anyway. They only have to look at the clear example right in front of them.

Business hasn’t exactly rushed to offer Tony Abbott a raft of lucrative sinecures, preferring to pass on the “lame, churchy, gay loser”, as his daughter called him.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)