The Ruddock Report has landed! (Part 1)

The long-awaited Religious Freedom Review: Report of the Expert Panel (chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock) has now been released publicly, along with the formal Government Response. After the prior leaking of its 20 recommendations there were no major surprises as to the final conclusion, but there is much interesting background to the recommendations (and in one or two cases the full Report seems to have a significant impact on how one should read the language of the recommendations.) It is also important to see the announced intentions of the LNP Government as to how they will respond.

In this first post in response to the full Report I will comment mainly on recommendations 1 & 5-8 and recommendation 15, with the other recommendations to be left for part 2 or later.

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Church liability for clergy child abuse

I am presenting a paper at a Melbourne Law School seminar on “Tort Liability of Churches for Clergy Child Abuse after the Royal Commission: Implications of Developments in the Law of Vicarious Liability and Non-Delegable Duty”, which is now available for those who are interested. The (fairly technical legal) paper reviews common law liability of churches, touches on some of the statutory changes in NSW and Victoria following the Royal Commission, and suggests that the High Court of Australia should refine the law of “non-delegable duty” to allow it to be used in cases involving intentional torts.

SDA amendments referred to another inquiry

A brief note about the Sex Discrimination Act amendments which have the subject of a number of recent posts. The House of Representatives has now adjourned for the year without a Government Bill being introduced to make any changes concerning religious schools and discrimination. So no binding changes will be made this year. On 6 December the Senate referred the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 11 February 2019. Submissions to the Committee can be made at the website linked here, and must be provided by 21 January 2019: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Sexdiscrimination.

Note: this post has been edited- contrary to initial advice I had received from the Committee, the deadline for public submissions to the Committee on this inquiry is 21 January 2019, not 11 January.

Result of Senate debate on amendments to SDA

A brief update on Parliamentary developments. The Senate debate on the ALP-sponsored Bill to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 took place today. While initially the Bill had been subject to a tight time limit which meant it would have passed today if not actually voted down, at the last minute a Government motion amended this arrangement. The result is as follows:

Debate on this bill will continue at a later date.

It seems that the bill is likely to be referred for consideration to a committee, and the debate will presumably be picked up in the New Year. 

There was a similar Bill, however, introduced into the House of Representatives this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. At the moment it is not clear whether this Bill will be debated again this week. More updates will be provided when more is known.