Top lawyer lashes religious freedom laws

Law Council President Arthur Moses says religious freedom laws are being drafted "on the run".
Law Council President Arthur Moses says religious freedom laws are being drafted "on the run".

The head of Australia's top legal body has lashed out at religious freedom laws being drafted "on the run".

Law Council president Arthur Moses believes the legislation is designed to quell concern about the sacking of former footballer Israel Folau.

"This is an example of legislation being done on the run by government to get the latest headline off the front page," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"He (Folau) may or may not have been treated unfairly - that's a matter for a court to determine.

"But I don't think that it is appropriate for government to make legislation on the run to plug holes in the law."

Mr Moses said that was not how a "mature western democracy" like Australia worked.

"I think we're better than that."

Mr Moses said terms including "religion" have not been defined in the bill, and is concerned aspects of the legislation could override state laws.

He is concerned the laws could expressly permit medical practitioners not to perform abortions based on their faith, and believes the bill does not carry the same protections as the Racial Discrimination Act.

"We are troubled that there is a shifting sand when it comes to religion, as opposed to race, and I don't think that the government has thought through consistency in legislation."

Australian Associated Press