ScoMo weighs in on Folau controversy

 

SCOTT Morrison has weighed in on Israel Folau's fight against Rugby Australia after being asked about the controversy during an interview on ABC's 7.30 program.

After speaking about the religious freedom bill being put forward by the Liberal Party, Leigh Sales asked the prime minister for his view on Folau's recent sacking following the comments he made about homosexuals on social media.

"Under the changes you introduce, would you like to see somebody like Israel Folau be able to make the remark he made and be safe from being sacked," Sales asked.

Mr Morrison was very brief with his response, saying a balance needs to be struck between an employer's expectation of their employees and how much say they should have over what they do in their personal lives.

Scott Morrison delivered a very diplomatic answer when asked to weigh in on the Israel Folau controversy. Picture: 7.30/ABC
Scott Morrison delivered a very diplomatic answer when asked to weigh in on the Israel Folau controversy. Picture: 7.30/ABC

"I think it's important, ultimately, that employers have reasonable expectations of their employees, and that they don't impinge on their areas of private practice and private belief or private activity," Mr Morrison said.

"And there's a balance that has to be struck in that, and our courts will always ultimately decide this based on the legislation that's presented."

He added that as the Folau case would likely be making its way through the court very soon he couldn't really make any further comments.

Mr Morrison said there is currently a gap in the law when it comes to expressions of religious faith, and the new bill aims to close that gap.

"We're looking at a religious Discrimination Act which I think which will provide more protections for people because of their religious faith and belief in the same way that people of whatever gender they have or sexuality or what nationality or ethnic background or the colour of their skin - they shouldn't be discriminated against also," he said.

Sales didn’t hold back in the PM’s first interview on 7.30 since winning the election. Picture: 7.30/ABC
Sales didn’t hold back in the PM’s first interview on 7.30 since winning the election. Picture: 7.30/ABC

Despite the PM skirting around the question, Sales pushed the issue, asking if being a public figure made any difference to the type of views you can express.

"If a public figure said, for example, that Jews are going to hell, they would be rightly and roundly condemned for that," Sales said.

"But if a public figure says gays are going to hell, it can be defended as religious freedom. Do you see any problem with that situation?"

Mr Morrison said an important aspect of the new legislation would be finding the right balance, which he said is something that needs to be considered in any anti-discrimination law.

"We already have anti-discrimination legislation which deals with these sensitivities in other areas, and that will apply also to religious faith," the prime minister said.

"And what I would hope is that we can have a sensible and adult debate about this one - not one that is drawn to extremes of examples or things like that to try and derail debates, but one that actually keeps people together and honours the key principle."

He labelled religious freedom as a "core pillar" of society and said it was not unreasonable to expect that to be protected.

"I think there are many millions of Australians who would like to see that protected, and I intend to follow through on that commitment," Mr Morrison said.