Albanese was not in the House of Representatives for the Morrison sermon – Labor was only represented by Jim Chalmers, who pressed his phone – and to be honest, it is not solely, or even primarily, a Liberal-Labor thing to take up the fight. on religious freedom. Morrison. The purpose is to excite the awakened left, to provoke statements that will mobilize people who could be attracted to the parties of Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer. These are the swingers of Morrison’s real sights, just as they were for John Howard and Tony Abbott. It is a cultural division first, political second; the quarry is Australians who do not like the way the country is heading if it means it is heading towards acceptance of homosexuality in schools or elsewhere that opens up different voices and puts the future of the planet ahead of jobs in the coal industry. Morrison wants to be a leader for them.
But in this law he has even failed them too. The bill has removed the so-called “Folau clause,” allowing it to protect employees from being fired for religious manifestations, such as Israel Folau’s homophobic comments that cost him his rugby career. By cutting back on that clause, Morrison has assessed that it is only a minor risk that he would lose the energetic backing of the Australian Christian Lobby, which has prioritized this clause. The ACL reckons it won the Morrison “miracle election” in 2019, and a Folau-type protection was intended to be the payback. It did not get it.
The Folau clause appears to have been removed by Morrison’s own party, with whom he is also in an ongoing series of arguments. But the effect of cutting into a Folau clause is challenging for Labor because it brings the bill on religious freedom closer to a law on employer freedom. The religious freedom debate crosses so many boundaries that it creates strange bedfellows; with the law he proposes, Morrison is broken over on the part of employers. The bill seeks to protect employers who want to discriminate against employees positively on religious grounds. This may include employers such as sports organizations who are free to fire an employee with unacceptable religious views.
That a workers’ party could accept such an anti-workers law also shows how far this religion law is falling into an electoral tactics law. Albanese’s ALP is considering supporting the bill because it does not want to give Morrison the fight he wants.
But that fight is what happens in the real world, the world of Craig Kelly and Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer and their thousands in the streets. The only outburst of spontaneous “hear hear” from Morrison’s supporters during his speech was when he attacked Twitter trolls and canceled culture. Shows where their emotions really lie. The dog whistle on the right was in the Prime Minister’s repetition of the word “cancel”, they chose moments to look directly at the camera.
If nothing else, the Morrison sermon and his apparent satisfaction with it gave an insight into a strange personality who thrives on, without fully understanding, his own radical impulses. But aside from one man’s desperation to save his career, this piece of legislation and its timing is unnecessary.
While writing a book on this subject, I learned that issues of religious discrimination carried so strongly into the lives of some people that they were prepared to take passionate, active, and sometimes extreme measures to defend themselves. But despite the ACL’s propaganda of having been Morrison’s kingmaker in 2019, there was little evidence that this passion changed the way people voted. It anchored them deeper in their existing inclinations, but was not a force for change. “Base mobilization” is important in American politics – where some in Canberra are doing unnecessary research – but in America, some voters need to be stirred up so they show up and vote. In Australia, we all have to show up anyway. We are no longer inclined to vote just because someone has made us angry. We vote from civil obedience.
When most Australians vote next year, they do not think about religion; they just want to look at two equally difficult prospects for prime minister. A pushing middle-aged salesman wearing a Union Jack and Southern Cross barbecue apron. Or a confused middle-aged man with wrinkled eyebrows in an effort to remember his talking points. It is not much of a choice and most people will simply choose the one they think will protect the price of their house. That’s the protection they have. It’s the Australian religion, not one of the Prime Minister’s 16 minutes.