Rex Patrick, Helen Haines say Morrison is using religious freedom bill as 'weapon of mass distraction'

Senator Rex Patrick (right) and independent MP Helen Haines. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Senator Rex Patrick (right) and independent MP Helen Haines. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

South Australian senator Rex Patrick has labelled the Morrison government's push for a religious discrimination bill a "weapon of mass distraction" designed to halt debate on a federal integrity commission.

Speaking alongside Victorian independent MP Helen Haines, Senator Patrick lamented the Coalition's apparent lack of interest in installing a federal integrity commission with teeth before the next election.

"The Prime Minister has thrown up the religious discrimination bill, that's just a weapon of mass destruction," Senator Patrick said.

"It doesn't go to the core of what Australians are interested in."

Dr Haines said more government MPs would threaten to cross the floor like Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer if further delays in the debate occurred.

"We still have no satisfaction that we won't see government ministers going about business the way they have in the past, coming into an election with no safeguards, no accountability about potential or alleged misuse of public funds as they try to buy seats," Dr Haines said.

"We are seeing other government members now speaking out that the government's ... exposure draft is far too weak and not fit for purpose."

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The federal government has proposed it own integrity bill, but the exposure draft was called out by the opposition and crossbench for being too weak. Despite this, no changes have been made to the bill following the consultation period.

Following a statement of indulgence by Dr Haines voicing frustration over the lack of debate, Liberal MP John Alexander said both sides of Parliament needed to sit down and go through the bill line by line.

"If we were to enter a period of debate on this issue, we might be here in another 20 years, as we have been on climate change," Mr Alexander said.

"I would suggest that we act like mature adults and enter a room. We both have our positions and [we should] start working through this document, line by line, until we have resolution together.

"The one thing [Australians] want the people in this place [to have] is integrity, and our stocks are not high in that department at this time."

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This story Patrick chides Scomo for using religious bill as 'weapon of mass distraction' first appeared on The Canberra Times.